DEPUE, Ill. (KWQC) – The Monterey Mushrooms factory has been one of the largest employers in Bureau Co. for decades, and last week they informed workers they will be ending operations in January.
Although the closure of the factory may cause a ripple effect through the entire Illinois Valley, there is one town in particular that will likely be hit the hardest.
“I think us, our town in DePue, are the ones that are going to feel the fallout.” said Sheila Harmon, a resident and teacher in DePue.
Hundreds of workers are set to lose their jobs after the mushroom factory closes its doors in January, and the majority of these workers currently reside a few miles away in the small town of DePue.
Teachers, including Harmon, are concerned for their students as many households have both parents working at the factory.
DePue has a population of less than two thousand, so an exodus of working class families could have devastating consequences. This is why village president, Daniel Hoffert, is eager to find ways to help the newly terminated employees recover as quickly as possible.
“What we don’t want to see going forward is to have people move out of town to move away to do things somewhere else or look somewhere else,” said Hoffert, “so our intentions have always been to make sure we take care of our citizens and we try to find them the best way possible to move forward.”
The unexpected closure of the mushroom factory has left village leaders scrambling to find solutions.
“Things that we want to do is get a job fair started and find out what the concerns of those employees are and try to help them in any way that we possibly can,” said Hoffert, “to move on from what has happened.”
DePue has faced similar closures in the past, but losing the mushroom factory is certainly another step backwards.
“I’m really hoping that we can find ways to keep the families here in this town,” said Harmon, “so that we don’t face another big drop and loss like we did 30 years ago.”
Since the factory is in Princeton’s tax district, Hoffert says he has been in close contact with Princeton mayor, Ray Mabry. He says neither of them have yet to hold a formal meeting with Monterey leadership.
The factory has had multiple owners over the years so Hoffert is hopeful that Monterey can sell the property in order for it to reopen at some point. However, as of Sunday night, the future of the site remains unclear.
In a letter to workers, Monterey says employees have been offered severance pay packages in exchange for them working through the end of operations. They say workers will also be eligible for unemployment benefits, and the company will not contest those claims.
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