Ferrara Candy Company – known for producing Lemonheads, Red Hots, Atomic Fireballs, Boston Baked Beans, Brach’s, Jawbusters and Now and Laters – will be closing its Winona plant next month.
The company will move its production capacity from Winona to a facility in Bellwood, Illinois, which has more modern equipment, Ferrara said in a statement to BringMeTheNews.
The plant's closure comes after a Feb. 14 fire at the factory, which caused "extensive damage" to candy-making equipment, the Winona Daily News reports.
Ferrara says "expanding production in Bellwood will help increase productivity and support the company’s continued growth."
100-plus employees could lose jobs
The closing will affect 124 employees in Winona, according to reports.
But the Winona Post pegs that number is closer to 200 when taking into account the approximately 80 temporary workers who are employed through local temp agencies.
Laid-off employees can also apply for other positions within the company, Ferrara said in the statement.
"Of course, decisions that affect people are never easy and this was not one we took lightly," the statement said. "We greatly value our employees’ hard work and dedication on behalf of Ferrara and are committed to treating all employees with dignity and respect. We are committed to providing transition assistance and severance for affected Winona employees."
Winona WorkForce Center Director Mike Haney told the Winona Post he believes there are enough open positions for the laid-off workers to find a job, and the center has applied for a grant to help train the workers for other positions.
A bittersweet history
The plant, built in 1940 by the Schuler Candy Company, has changed owners over the years with candy company mergers and acquisitions, the Winona Daily News says.
It became the country's primary producer of Gummi Bears when they became popular in the United States in 1986, the LaCrosse Tribune notes.
In 2012, Farley & Sathers merged with Ferrara Pan to form Ferrara Candy in 2012, the Winona Daily News says. The company also has factories in Iowa, Tennessee and Mexico.