Neighbors helping neighbors

Published 10:12 am Monday, December 21, 2015

WINDSOR – Bertie County Economic Development Director Steve Biggs in his monthly report to the Bertie County Commissioners told the Board at their Dec. 7 meeting that his office would coordinate a Rapid Response Team and they have scheduled a future Job Fair to support the dislocated workers of Golden Peanut as a result of the pending closure of the Aulander plant.

“Under the Warn Act, they (Golden Peanut) sent word to the state Department of Commerce after giving notice of their closing, and we went into action from there,” Biggs said in an interview. “We put our Rapid Response team together and went about telling them (employees) what to expect.”

Biggs said his office met with Golden Peanut management on Dec. 8 and then the Rapid Response team met with the employees on Dec. 10 & 11.

“Our team consisted of Workforce Development, Roanoke Chowan Community College, and Vocational Rehabilitation, among others,” Biggs added. “We informed them about ideas, financial stuff, unemployment benefits, and where they need to go to look for jobs.”

The Golden Peanut shelling plant in Aulander will shut down effective Feb. 1, 2016, at which time some 81 employees will be laid off, according to company officials.

“We were able to spring into action because 50 or more employees would be affected,” Biggs acknowledged.

Golden Peanut’s parent company, Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts of Alpharetta, Ga., a subsidiary of global food-processer Archer Daniels Midland Company, said through an ADM spokesperson in a statement sent Dec. 7 to the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, that the company would, quote, “be working with each affected colleague to explore career options within ADM or provide severance packages as appropriate.”

Also affected by the closure would be the suppliers of peanuts to the Aulander facility, as ADM will also cease to purchase peanuts from buying points that supplied the Aulander plant.

“A lot of people don’t like the term ‘dislocated worker’,” Biggs explained. “But at the Rapid Response team meeting we talked about this and how these employees can get career services and training; training than can be paid for with a combination of state and federal funds.

In a Triad Business Journal story out of Greensboro dated Dec. 4, ADM said it was closing the Aulander plant due to “market conditions” in a filing with the North Carolina Department of Commerce dated Nov. 30 and disclosed Dec. 3.

Meanwhile, Biggs added that a closed Job Fair exclusively for Golden Peanut employees will be held on Jan. 8 for those workers who are interested in new employment or continuing education opportunities.

“A lot of companies have called me because they are having a tough time finding employees,” Biggs contended. “These are the companies that are seeking the kinds of employees these Golden Peanut workers represent.”

At the Commissioner’s meeting, newly selected Board Vice Chairman Ernestine Byrd Bazemore commended Biggs for his diligence, and continued service toward the well-being of the citizens in Bertie County regarding new development as well as employment opportunities.