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Closing time draws near for Aberdeen Simplot plant

Employees at the Simplot potato processing plant in Aberdeen, as well as the city of Aberdeen, are no closer to knowing what happens when the Simplot plant closes. Simplot will not discuss that until after the plant closes down.

Aberdeen Mayor Morgan Anderson said he wishes he could know sooner rather than later. He said that will affect the plan of action the city takes.

“We’re really in limbo right now because there’s so much uncertainty of what’s going to happen now,” Anderson said Tuesday.

Anderson said he has been meeting with Simplot officials on a monthly basis, but the answer is always the same. The only difference is the time frame as to when the plant will close. Anderson first heard February, and then heard March and then May. He said he’s expecting the announcement any moment during that time. But he said their decision affects who they will appeal to and what those businesses can do.

“If they’d come out and just say, ‘We’re going to mothball it or we’re not going to do anything with it,’ then we would know definitely what we’ve got to do.”

Anderson said the problem is going to be jobs for everyone. Aberdeen is seeing the construction of a new Family Dollar store, but that will likely only employ five to ten people. What does that mean for the remaining employees.

“I think the majority of them are going to be wondering what’s going to happen, because in our community there’s not a place to go,” Anderson said. “The other businesses are probably full.”

He said he is glad the new Family Dollar is going to become an Aberdeen business, but with all these Simplot worries, the last thing he wants is a new business to drive customers away from an already existing business.

“I hope it’s a good asset to the community. Some of the things they sell a couple of the others do that’s been here for years,” Anderson said. “What’s it going to take away from them? That’s the thing in a small community: you bring something in and it impacts the other businesses.”

But as for Simplot, Anderson said the company has a history of doing only two things with plants: keeping them running or demolishing them. Anderson is hoping for the third option to leave it constructed. He hopes a new business can move in with minor modifications, get the plant up and running, and give outed Simplot employees a chance to keep their families, homes and jobs in eastern Idaho.

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