ABERDEEN, Idaho - Update: Representatives from the J.R. Simplot plant in Aberdeen confirmed on Tuesday morning the plant has officially ceased operating, with two exceptions.
Company spokesperson David Cuoio said the plant's decommissioning and re-packing tasks are still up and running and say the facility could be completely vacated either days or weeks from now.
"The employees have operated very professionally under extremely difficult circumstances and the company is very grateful for that," Cuoio said. "We wish them all the best in the future."
Neither the company nor the city still have any idea as to any prospective companies to move into the facility.
Original story reported on August 5: The J.R. Simplot plant in Aberdeen is still up and running, after it was scheduled to officially close its doors on July 31, but a delay has it rescheduled to close Sept. 2.
This is the second time the plant has had to extend the closure date, sending Aberdeen Mayor Morgan Anderson a letter dated July 3 informing the city of the new closure date.
The letter indicates 127 hourly employees and 13 salary employees at the plant will be impacted by the permanent pink slip.
The plant was initially slated to close for the first time in March, but due to some set-backs at the new facility in Caldwell, some of the equipment was not working as expected so the Aberdeen plant was needed to sustain the company's high volume of production.
In a statement, Simplot spokesperson David Cuoio said the following:
"Simplot's Aberdeen potato processing plant is now scheduled to remain open until Sept. 2. The extension of the closing date is due to unexpectedly high product orders. ... The Simplot Education Program has been offered to Aberdeen employees and some have taken advantage of this opportunity. This provides 100 percent reimbursement per calendar year for structured professional development programs such as GEDs, CPA classes, and welding courses, to name a few. The Simplot Education Program also provides 80 percent reimbursement per year for costs of college undergraduate degrees and post-graduate degrees. Onsite classes in resume preparation have been conducted at the Aberdeen plant for more than two years."
Anderson said he is worried there are still no prospective companies lined up to move into the facility once it's empty, although Aberdeen has been trying for years to get someone to set-up shop in the community who can bring as much economic prosperity as Simplot had.
Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce president Brett Crowther said his main concern is the fact that Simplot is the No. 1 employer in Aberdeen, and this closure will force a lot of people to take-on two part-time jobs or they will have to move out of town to pick up work elsewhere. He said Aberdeen just doesn't have enough of jobs available to have everyone at the plant work within the town itself.
"We want to keep people here because they will support all of the businesses here, and so if we lose the No. 1 employer, that could have a huge impact on the rest of the merchants," Crowther said.
But he said the agriculturally rich community is special since everyone is willing to find a way to help each other out.
"Aberdeen is a great community, and we pull together and work together. If any business wants to come here, we would love to have you. But we are also hoping that Simplot stays, but that's a hope that might not happen."