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Hooray for Schreiber Foods

Saturday, June 9, 2018   (0 Comments)

The Monett Times
Murray Bishoff



The ceremony on Thursday marking the completion of the addition to the Monett plant of Schreiber Foods marked another great day in Monett’s industrial history.

Coming 70 years after the original Producers Creamery plant opened in Monett, the latest plant expansion for Schreiber underscores the continuing value of the Monett’s link to the surrounding agricultural base. The shrinking number of dairy farms, especially in Barry County, made it impossible for Dairy Farmers of America to receive the volume of milk needed to sustain the operation. The ability of milk producers to soldier on with today’s farms, hardly the same operations that inspired Producers Creamery to build in Monett in the 1940s, and the remarkable opportunity seized by Schreiber Foods to exclusively create preservative-free cheese for McDonald’s, offers great testimony to the strength of both industries. Being in the right place at the right time made Schreiber’s Monett operation the perfect place to produce a product in national demand.

Things weren’t looking up in Monett by the end of 2013, after Dairy Farmers of America closed its portion of the Monett plant. In the previous year, Hydro Aluminum had closed its extrusion division.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have seen expansions at EFCO, WinTech, Monett Metals, International Dehydrated Foods, a new paint line at PlayPower and a new industrial park developing in the southeast corner of town. Other expansions and upgrades are less obvious, all coming before the tax cuts that were supposed to spur such growth. But, Monett’s industries didn’t wait.

Remarkably, the expansion at Schreiber added even more jobs than had been lost when DFA closed, more than original projections. Breaks like that have kept Monett strong as an industrial base, as an employment center and, tangentially, as a center of commerce.

Executives for Schreiber Foods were interested in seeing not only the hiring records for the new positions, but also the applications. They know that an industry has to sustain its workforce. That’s been an issue in Monett, especially for some of the other manufacturers. Schreiber has a notable history of long-term employees. A place where people want to stay is becoming rarer in today’s business. Schreiber has done that, and other businesses can take a lesson from what they’ve done.

It was also striking to see the warm feelings expressed by Tim Walls and Larry Ferguson, now top executives in the firm, for the time they spent as plant managers in Monett. Ferguson asked about many of the people with whom he had worked. That kind of mutual affection is practically unheard of in industry today.

An investment of $60 million in Monett’s plant is mind boggling. It certainly speaks well of the company’s commitment to the Monett community for the future. Dairy production may require the most dedicated people, in an industry that still has scary ups and downs, requiring an enormous investment to make money, Schreiber’s commitment illustrates the bond between the farm, the workers in the plant, and the consumers who still want that product. All of it speaks well of Monett’s future, as a place to live and work and thrive.

So, hats off to Schreiber Foods! Thursday offered a worthy celebration. While we couldn’t all flood the plant to look at the new process — proprietary technology and sanitation requirements in food plants today don’t allow the same openness we had in the past — it’s an occasion all of Monett can celebrate. We can say "welcome home” to Larry Ferguson and Tim Walls, and thank you, for years to come.

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