45 Dean Foods employees lose jobs

EVART — After Dean Food’s Liberty Dairy’s largest customer – Meijer Inc. – announced in March it would be breaking into the dairy production business, nearly a quarter of the 200 employees at the Evart plant have lost their jobs.

“Unfortunately, due to some recent volume losses at the plant, we informed 45 employees and their union business agent in late July that their jobs are being eliminated in mid-August,” said Liliana Esposito, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Dean Foods. “We regret the impact that this decision will have on our employees and the Evart community.”

Meijer announced March 29 it’s acquisition of a dairy facility in Holland with plans to sell a new brand of dairy products — the Purple Cow Creamery brand. The white and chocolate milk will be sold in gallon and half-gallon sizes in the 101 Meijer stores in Michigan.

The move would take away some 90 percent of business at the Evart dairy, which has been a major Osceola County employer for generations. In 1928, the plant became Liberty Dairy and in 2001 the operation was purchased by Dallas-based company Suiza Dairy but retained its name.

In an initiative to inform Dean Food’s corporate executives about the impact the plant has on the Evart community, the Coalition of Champions, headed by Michigan Works! reported 49 letters of support have been written and sent from entities all over Osceola, Mecosta and Clare counties. The initiative was introduced soon after Meijer’s announcement in an effort to encourage executives to try to keep the plant open. Letter writers include local politicians, the Mecosta County Chamber of Commerce, the Evart Downtown Development Authority, Spring Hill Camps and the Osceola County Board of Commissioners and many more.

Apparently, the initiative was not as effective as writers hoped it would be.

“The decision to eliminate jobs in any part of our business is never an easy one,” Esposito said. “As far as our plans for the plant overall, we continue to work with our customers to understand their future plans and timing.”