Shoals leaders focus on bringing new jobs to area

Hillshire will work with Florence leaders to provide job fairs for soon-to-be unemployed workers.
Hillshire will work with Florence leaders to provide job fairs for soon-to-be unemployed workers.

FLORENCE, AL (WAFF) - Leaders in the Shoals are working to bring more jobs to the area, after one of their largest employers announced it would close and leave nearly 1,100 people out of work.

Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock said the Hillshire Brands plant is firm in their decision to leave by the end of the year. He said they are on their way out and they can't do anything to change their mind. He said Hillshire representatives told him it's strictly a business decision.

Hillshire Brands announced their decision to close the Florence facility earlier in April. The facility houses breakfast sandwich and sausage cooking operations.

Mayor Haddock said he and other local leaders are focused on bringing in new jobs to the area – something they were discussing well before the closure announcement. Haddock said although the plant's closing is a hard hit to the community, it is important to stay positive.

"We've got a skilled workforce now; that's one way to look at it. There are some great individuals that work there that have the work ethic, that are going to be looking for employment. Hopefully we can get some retraining programs started," the mayor said.

Haddock was on an overseas trip, trying to promote new business growth in both the Shoals and the state when he learned of Hillshire's relocation plans. He said he feels the trip to Korea and Japan was a success and definitely worked to strengthen relationships with leaders of companies like Tasus and North American Lighting.

"They have many companies under their umbrellas, many companies that they're associated with. I feel like our visit will get us at the top of the list. We did plant the seeds and will continue to water those seeds. Something will grow out of it. I felt really good about the visit," said Haddock.

Mayor Haddock said the city is working with Hillshire and other training facilities to help employees find new jobs before the plant closes its doors. He said the job fair will be held at the Coliseum. A date has not yet been scheduled.

Meanwhile, Haddock said their number one focus right now is to find a company to take over the Hillshire facility.

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