ST. GEORGE – Iowa-based Wells Enterprises Inc. announced it is closing its St. George Blue Bunny ice cream production facility, located at 1310 E. Commerce Drive in St. George.
In a statement released Tuesday, the company said:
Wells Enterprises has decided to close its ice cream plant in St. George, Utah. This decision will enable the Company to optimize its existing capacity in Le Mars, Iowa to more efficiently serve customers and support Wells’ long-term growth strategy. The decision also allows Wells to more effectively compete in the ice cream category that has been flat to declining for several years, and has been further challenged by unstable commodity costs. Wells is mindful of the impact changes of this nature have on employees and their families and is committed to helping impacted employees through this transition.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said Blue Bunny built the St. George plant in anticipation that demand for the company’s products in the Western United States would increase. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
“It’s one of those market realities,” Pike said.
The pending closure – Wells’ Dairy has not yet supplied a specific shutdown date – will impact approximately 90-to-100 employees.
“We’re very disappointed and sad for the employees and their families,” Pike said, adding that he hopes they will be able to find new employment within the community.
Scott Hirschi, director of Site Select Plus, which works to recruit new businesses to the area, echoed Pike’s sentiment in a statement Tuesday:
We extend our condolences to the employees who will lose their jobs with the closure. However, the St. George Plant crew is a highly trained and very skilled labor force. I am confident all of the approximately 100 workers will find employment opportunities within our community. With the current low-unemployment rate, high job creation rate and the promise of more Primary Industries jobs coming here soon the local labor market will remain healthy.
The closure of the ice cream plant also removes a valued corporate partner from the area, the mayor said. Wells Dairy has been very supportive of St. George and Washington County as a whole and has given good reports to other businesses looking into the area, Pike said.
“We well miss them terribly as a corporate partner,” he said.
As for the 160,000-square foot Blue Bunny building, Wells Dairy will leave it behind, Pike said. Resources like Site Select Plus, will be called upon to help find new companies that may be able to take the building over.
The Blue Bunny ice cream plant opened in St. George in September 2003 and cost around $55 million to construct.
Ed. note: The original estimated construction cost has been corrected. The article has been updated with a statement from Scott Hirschi.
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