Stark County chicken processor Park Farms to cut 200 jobs

More than 200 employees apparently will lose their jobs with the pending sale of longtime Stark County chicken processor Park Farms.

Park Farms CEO Christina Pastore Bucher said in an email this week that the company has reached a preliminary sale agreement.

She did not disclose the buyer. A woman answering the phone in Pastore Bucher’s office Wednesday said the company would not provide further comment at this time. Pastore Bucher’s email said questions would be “commented on in the following weeks.”

The Canton Repository reported in a story published Wednesday that Pastore Bucher said in a letter last week to Canton Mayor William J. Healy II that the company anticipates 225 employees would be permanently laid off.

Warren Price, Healy’s chief of staff, could not be reached Wednesday.

Park Farms employs 154 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880 in Cleveland.

The union workers will be permanently laid off but also will be allowed to reapply for jobs under the new ownership, said a Local 880 spokesman via e-mail. The workers process the poultry and also package the birds.

The union is urging the workers to reapply for the jobs, the spokesman said. There is no guarantee that people will be rehired. The union work force was coming to the end of a three-year contract due to expire on March 3.

The union said it was officially told on Friday about the sale and that the company did not elaborate other than saying it was “for financial reasons.”

The family-owned company has been in business for more than 65 years and sells chickens to local, regional and national retailers.

Locally, Park Farms sells to Fishers, which operates seven grocery stores in Stark County.

Acme Fresh Market, headquartered in Akron and with 17 area locations, previously sold Park Farms. Currently, Acme carries Gerber’s poultry, which is headquartered in Kidron, and Acme’s private label brand.

Acme Executive Vice President Jim Trout said it has been several years since Acme stores sold Park Farms chicken.

Canton City Council President Allen Schulman said Wednesday, “I don’t think it’s clear exactly what’s occurring.”

He said, “If we have lost this employer it’s a body blow” to the city.

“The loss of good paying jobs with benefits, retirement,” he said, “is a tragedy at any time of the year, particularly during the holidays.”

Schulman said the city had in the last few months sought to help Park Farms, offering it a $100,000 economic development grant.

Price told the Repository that Park Farms has asked for the incentive to be withdrawn.

Canton annexed the Park Farms property from Plain Township into Canton a few years ago, Schulman noted.

Source: Ohio