Bunge Oils to close Chattanooga plant

Bunge Oils to close Chattanooga plant

May 16th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region


Bunge is the world's largest oil seed processor and seller of bottled oil, and it's the leading miller of corn in North America. Bunge has 22,000 employees in more than 30 countries.

Bunge Oils, which runs a Chattanooga plant that has operated at the site for upwards of a century, plans to close the facility early next year and shed about 100 jobs.

"It's about efficiency," said Deb Seidel, communications director for Bunge's North American operations, about the shift of the local plant's tasks to the company's Decatur, Ala., site.

Plans are to close the Chattanooga facility, located in Alton Park on Kirkland Avenue, by the end of the first quarter of next year, said Beau Meneley, director of operations for Bunge's Southeast region.

"It's disappointing," he said. "It's rough for everyone."

Meneley said plans are to put the facility up for sale to a noncompetitor.

J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said while officials are saddened by the closure, they're glad the company is putting the property on the market.

"We're always disappointed when a company finds that they need to downsize or close down an operation," he said.

Seidel said the plant packages edible oils such as salad oils or shortening, and its age was one reason behind the move.

"It's been a great location," she said. The two Bunge officials said the age of the plant ranges from 80 to 100 years.

Meneley said the right standards need to be maintained in the foods industry, and "it gets harder and harder."

According to the Hamilton County Assessor's Office, Bunge acquired the plant in January 1980 from Swift and Co.

The 7-acre site includes 125,020 square feet of industrial buildings and is appraised at more than $2.4 million, the Assessor's Office said.

Seidel said workers will be offered openings at the Decatur facility or other Bunge sites.

Meneley, a 26-year Bunge employee, is in his second stint in Chattanooga, having been here for four years at present.

"It's a great group of people there," he said. "It's a hard-working group."

Bunge is a major exporter and domestic supplier of grains and oil seeds. It also supplies packaged and bulk shortenings and edible oils to the food processing, food service and retail and wholesale bakery industries.