UPDATE

News Russell Stover will close its Montrose candy manufacturing plant and consolidate it with operations in two other states left city and county officials grappling with what comes next — both for employees and the 330,000 square-foot building that is set up for larger scale manufacturing.

“It’s really a hit for our community,” Mayor Pro-tem Barbara Bynum said Tuesday, during an impromptu meeting with other public officials, the state department of labor, Colorado Workforce and economic development leaders, who assembled just a few hours after Russell Stover’s vice president of operations sent a letter to employees, announcing the plant would close in March 2021.

The hit comes not just in jobs for an estimated 300-400 people, which concerned all officials present, but also in terms of the sales tax the candy factory and store generate through customers, as well as the personal property tax Russell Stover pays the county each year on things like equipment; the impact on special taxing districts and revenue to the city, which provides water and sewer service to the plant, as well as processes biochemical discharge waste associated with making candy. Additionally, Russell Stover is one of the biggest power consumers in the county, it was said, which also raised concerns about the impact on Delta-Montrose Electric Association. There could also be an effect on milk producers, it was said.

In addition to discussing how to help the workers, those present also considered whether a different, large scale manufacturer could be attracted, or whether trying to attract several smaller businesses to set up shop in the massive building is a better bet.

“The last thing I would want to see is an empty building up there for 10 years. That’s a scary thought,” Montrose City Councilor Roy Anderson said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and see Wednesday’s Montrose Daily Press.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Russell Stover, a Montrose staple for four decades, has announced it will close the local plant in 2021.

In a letter dated Jan. 14, Vice President of Operations Ron Kelehar told employees here the decision is based on “shifts in customer demand and more efficient plant operations.”

The candy factory will be consolidated with operations in Kansas and Texas, which is expected to be done March of next year. In the meantime, there will be no changes to pay and benefits included in current agreements.

“This extended transition allows you time to plan for your futures,” the letter says.

The company also asked employees to consider relocating in order to work at other plants and said if they do not, they will get help finding a new job through the state labor department.

Russell Stover will meet with union representatives to negotiate severance and other benefits. It is also working with the city.

“We realize this is a very difficult time, but you have my commitment to treat you fairly and communicate often throughout this process,” Kelehar said.

“We have more than a year of work ahead of us here in Montrose and I thank you in advance for your continued hard work and commitment during this period.”

It was not immediately clear how many people are employed at the Montrose plant.

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates and see tomorrow’s edition.

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