Western Sugar facility to transition to storage, shippingWritten by Emilee Gibb
Torrington – Western Sugar Cooperative officially announced their plans to cease processing sugarbeets at their facility in Torrington with the expansion of facilities Nebraska and Colorado.
The co-op will continue to store and package sugar in Torrington and will be maintaining approximately 22 positions in Torrington.
“The expansion of our Nebraska and Colorado facilities is really a key project for us to serve our customers and remain competitive,” says Western Sugar Cooperative Vice President and Director of Media Relations Heather Luther.
The current sugarbeet manufacturing facility in Torrington processes over 650,000 tons of sugarbeets per year, says Western Sugar Cooperative
Torrington Facility Manager Tom Briggs.
“We slice about 5,000 tons a day,” he explains.
The facility currently employs approximately 200 people, making it a significant contributor to the economy of Torrington.
Sugarbeets are received from a wide swath of the western region, including Wheatland, Wellington, Colo., Kimball, Neb. and Ogallala, Neb.
“We have lots of receiving stations. It’s a very big area,” continues Briggs.
The Torrington sugarbeet processing facility is scheduled to be scaled back as Western Sugar Cooperative expands their operations at facilities in Scottsbluff, Neb. and Fort Morgan, Colo. this season.
Layoffs are currently planned to occur sometime this year, says Luther.
However, many variables will influence when layoffs actually occur and the partial closure of the manufacturing facility.
“It’s still up in the air to see how the other two plants are running,” says Briggs.
The co-op will remain in Torrington, however, as they transition the manufacturing facility to a packaging and storage facility.
“When we looked at it, we decided that we could get some synergies by adding a packaging line there,” says Luther.
In recent years, Western Sugar Cooperative began looking at how to best improve productivity and reliability, explains Luther.
“We knew we needed to increase our efficiency and tried to figure out where to best do that, while considering where our growers are most located,” Luther continues.
The co-op decided to invest in capacity increases at their Neb. and Colo. facilities.
The other two facilities better match sugarbeet grower locations, she explains.
“It was really a way to optimize our footprint, increasing capacity for the growth of our company and matching it to where our growers are located.”
Western Sugar Cooperative is conscious of the impact of the sugar plant on the City of Torrington, says Luther.
“We’re very mindful that the Torrington facility is important to people in the region, so we tried to look at how we could best preserve the most jobs to service customers from our storage and packaging operations,” Luther continues.
Through scaling back the operating activities at the facility to a storage and packaging facility, the co-op will be able to preserve an estimated 22 positions at the facility.
Short-term, the City of Torrington will face revenue loss, says Goshen County Economic Development (GCEDC) Executive Director Ashley Harpstreith.
“Some of the parts that are going to be really tough for our community are the loss of electrical rates and the job loss,” says Harpstreith.
Briggs notes that while some jobs are being retained, Torrington residents will still be severely impacted by job losses.
“We’re still going to do a lot of warehousing and packaging here, but there will still be a lot of jobs that will be lost,” he says.
Harpstreith is hopeful that the future plans of the facility will be an attractant for other businesses to Torrington.
“The future landscape south of town looks different but not as grim as we anticipated. The future development of a powdered sugar line could be helpful in attracting other manufacturing companies that use powdered sugar as an ingredient,” continues Harpstreith.
GCED notes that they are working to find job opportunities and job training in Goshen County for those affected by the layoffs.
“We will continue to coordinate with our partners and friends at Department of Workforce Services and Eastern Wyoming College to assist and organize efforts for the displaced workers with training and training grant opportunities,” says Harpstreith.
Harpstreith comments that numerous businesses around the area are already contacting GCED regarding job opportunities for displaced workers.
“I’m confident that those workers are going to find a home in Goshen County,” concludes Harpstreith.