As we have examined the pending sale of Sanderson Farms, there have been many questions.
But one hasn’t yet been explored by WATT Global Media: How will it affect Laurel, Mississippi? After all, that is the city where the company is headquartered.
On, August 9, it was announced that Cargill and Continental Grain entered a joint venture agreement to acquire Sanderson Farms. Continental Grain is the owner of poultry company Wayne Farms, and the plan is to merge Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms.
So far, not much has been said about whether any corporate jobs that are presently housed at Sanderson Farms will be retained. And that has Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee concerned.
“The whole thing is kind of frightening,” Magee told the Leader-Call. “It’s scary for the whole community. Sanderson employs a lot of people.”
How many people? About 1,100, and about 450 of those work out of the company’s corporate office in Laurel.
Mind you, the remaining employees will likely remain as it operates a poultry complex in Laurel. So does Wayne Farms. So there will still be a strong presence in the mid-sized Mississippi city, which according to Census figures, has a population of roughly 18,000 people.
But there are concerns about the potential loss of those 450 people in the corporate office, whose roles might be considered redundant once the transaction goes through. Those are higher paying jobs, and the people who hold those jobs, may be put in a position to where they will have to take their skills outside of Laurel.
There are also concerns about the contract growers in the area. And while Mike Cockrell, Sanderson Farms chief financial officer told the Leader-Call he couldn’t say much about the company, post-closing of the acquisition, he did say: “I’m sure Cargill shares our appreciation for the role they play. … Growers are essential to the business.”
Most of us have lived in a place where a major employer closed its doors. Some towns recover, while others do not.
There are a lot of unanswered questions. Perhaps not even that those at Cargill and Continental Grain know all the answers.
Obviously, my hope is that any negative consequence to Laurel and its citizens will be minimal. It might be a good idea to send some prayers and positive vibes their way.