By Desirée Taylor
Got milk? This plant won’t be producing it much longer. Farmland Dairies has decided to close its Wallington facility which has been in operation for decades. That means 325 layoffs.
“It kinda came out of nowhere, I don’t think anyone was expecting this, so it was just kinda shocking,” said employee Stan Tomza.
The news also shocked Wallington’s business administrator.
“I was very surprised, no indication something like this could happen, especially before Christmas. Two managers walked into office the other day and handed me a note stating that they could be closing beginning of closing by Feb. 17th in three phases, two weeks apart, totally 325 jobs lost,” said Wallington Borough administrator Witold Baginski.
Also lost, tax revenue.
“Farmland Dairies one of largest tax payers in the borough, also one of the largest users for water. Sewage fees, 1.2 to 1.4m per year,” said Baginski.
Fred Stern, spokesperson for Borden Dairy, the owner of Farmland Dairies, says officials decided to close this plant to increase efficiency. Another factor, the industry is changing, fewer people are drinking milk.
When this plant closes, just three other milk processing facilities will remain in New Jersey and there will be fewer Farmland Dairy products on the shelves at New Jersey stores. It’s unclear if or how any of this will impact milk prices – they’re state-regulated. Our calls to the USDA were not returned. Meanwhile, area businesses say they will also feel the impact because many of the Farmland employees are longtime customers.
“It is going to effect us. It won’t put us out of business but I would say 10 percent of our business is generated from Farmland employees,” said Jumbo’s Pizza owner Faris Khatibi.
“We do have most of the people coming in to our job from there, so it will impact that also. And the businesses around here because they go there too. And I really do feel bad for them that they are losing their jobs right before Christmas,” said Natalia Gusciora
“A lot of people down, a lot of people here 20 to 25 years. So far a lot of people it’s devastating to say the least,” said Tomza.
Making matters worse, a milk distributing plant in town closed back in October. Another sign this once thriving industry is drying up.