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Cuomo & Schumer Say Kraft-Heinz Agrees To Save Upstate Jobs

(WXXI News & AP) Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer have announced an agreement to save at-risk jobs  at three Kraft-Heinz facilities in Upstate NY that employ nearly 1,000 people. 

That includes about 400 workers at the plant in Avon which makes Cool Whip and Lunchables, and the plant in Campbell in Steuben County that makes string cheese among other products  and employs nearly 400.

A Kraft Heinz spokesman told WXXI News recently that the two factories and a third in Walton, New York, were under close review.

Cuomo and Schumer say under this agreement, Kraft-Heinz will continue to operate plants in Avon, Walton and Lowville. Additionally, the company will defer its planned closure of the Campbell plant for 12 to 24 months during which time the company will work with state, federal and local officials in an effort to find a new operator who would retain the existing jobs there.

The state and Kraft-Heinz are also committing to each invest at least $20 million to support and modernize the company's upstate operations. Cuomo and Schumer say that Kraft-Heinz was planning to close the Avon facility and lay off all 405 employees. The new agreement will save that plant and its jobs for at least the next 5 years and also includes a commitment to potentially expand the plant and add new jobs.

The state's investment will initially be capped at $20 million over the next five years provided Kraft-Heinz also invests $20 million. If after those five years, the company has not decreased its overall employment in New York State and has invested at least $25 million in its upstate operations, the state will invest an additional $5 million.

Avon Town Supervisor David LeFeber tells WXXI News it was very welcome news for his community.

"Oh, I feel very good about the news. They're going to remain in Avon and Senator Schumer and the Governor worked very hard with the company to keep the plant open and possibly there can be some future growth and expansion." 

Kraft Heinz did announce on Wednesday that it will  close seven factories in North America over the next two years as part of a downsizing that will shed 2,600 jobs.

The company said Wednesday it will close U.S. manufacturing facilities in Fullerton and San Leandro, California; Federalsburg, Maryland; Campbell, New York; Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania; and Madison, Wisconsin. A plant also will close in St. Marys, Ontario.

The closures will occur in the next 12 to 24 months.

The company said it also will close its meat processing plant in Davenport, Iowa, and move production to a new facility that will be built nearby.

Kraft Heinz formed from the merger of Kraft and Heinz this year.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.