BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) – Pilgrim’s, one of Marshall County’s largest employers, is closing its Boaz facility Friday.
Much of the parking lot is empty as operations taper off at the poultry processing plant.
Pilgrim’s announced it would close its Boaz facility in November. Since that day, some of the employees have been moved to positions at Pilgrim’s facilities in Russellville, Guntersville and other locations.
“Since the announcement, Pilgrim’s has identified employment opportunities for approximately 44% of its Boaz team members,” the company said in a statement released this week to WHNT News 19.
The building in Boaz will start being equipped to be sold, but there’s still discussion on who may buy it, the company said.
Marshall County leaders have been critical of the process, saying Pilgrim’s has provided little information on the plant’s closure and how many employees would keep their jobs. However after a meeting with Pilgrim’s CEO and other management officials recently, Boaz Mayor Tim Walker says he feels the company understands the situation in Boaz, and is more than willing to help the city move forward.
Pilgrim’s said it has worked with the State of Alabama’s Rapid Response team to help displaced workers and hosted an on-site job fair as well, to assist other employees in finding other work.
“We recognize that the strategic decisions announced in November impact our team members and the community,” said Doug Schult, head of Human Resources for Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation. “It is why we have worked so hard to provide opportunities for our Boaz team members at other Pilgrim’s facilities and why we have partnered with the State of Alabama to identify assistance for those who are unable to continue with Pilgrim’s. While we could not provide opportunities for everyone, we are humbled that so many of our Boaz team members have chosen to continue to play an important role in the success of Pilgrim’s for years to come.”
James Markley is a dad of two, soon to be a dad of three. He’s been working at Pilgrim’s in Boaz for five years. In November when he heard the plant was shutting down, things took a different turn. “I couldn’t believe it,” Markley says, “As it started coming down I just said alright, I need to hurry up and try to find me something else so I can keep my family going and everything else.”
So he started looking for a new job, and he found one. “It’s going to be alright for me, it’s what I do here, and I’ll be doing the exact same thing over there,” Markley says of the job he found in Albertville.
Markley is one of the lucky ones. Hundreds of his co-workers are still looking. “Everybody’s been crying today since it’s the last day and everything,” Markley says.
Boaz Mayor Tim Walker says a meeting with the Governor lasts week was the first steps in getting those employees back in the workforce. “We’re going to have a lot of support from the Department of Commerce, reaching out to recruit industry to this area and to replace those jobs,” Mayor Walker says, “Maybe with even better jobs.”
Mayor Walker says he has faith in the now former Pilgrim’s employees still looking for a job. “We have a hard-working group in Boaz and we have folks that’s trained in that industry, but they’re a hard-working group that can be trained in any industry.”
Getting a new company in the building will help replace those jobs. Marshall County leaders say that’s in the early stages. As for Markley, he says he’s just thankful he’ll be moving on optimistically. “I said ‘God, can you help me out for a little bit,’ and He answered my prayers,” Markley says.