Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
A couple of companies that operate food processing plants in Oklahoma recently sold or merged with another company. Last week, privately held Phoenix based Bar S Foods announced they were selling to a Mexican company- Alfa, S.A.B. de C.V., parent company of Sigma Alimentos, S.A. de C.V.
Bar S operates four facilities (three manufacturing plants and one distribution center) in Oklahoma. They are located in Clinton, Altus, Elk City and Lawton. Bar S employs about 1,200 people in the state, so the sale could have significant impact if Sigma decided to move the processing south of the border. It’s highly unlikely the DC will be affected.
Commenting on the transaction, Armando Garza Sada, Alfa’s chairman of the board, stated: “This is an important milestone in Sigma´s growth strategy. With this acquisition, Sigma will become a meaningful player in the U.S. refrigerated processed meats market with an important presence in the U.S. Hispanic market.” While it is true the Latino consumer is the fasting growing segment of the US population, it’s also true that Alfa has several plants in Mexico that produce the same products as the Bar S plants. Hopefully Alfa will see the quality of work done by the Oklahoma workers and leave the plants here.
About a month ago, it was announced that Advance Food Company, which was founded in Enid in 1973, was merging with Pierre Foods in Cincinnati. The new company will be called Advance Pierre Foods and the new CEO will be a Pierre guy. The son of one of the founders- Greg Allen- of Advance will be on the board. Both Advance and Pierre make meat products like hamburger patties and sandwiches, mostly for the food service industry. Advance employs over 1,900 people in the state
Advance and Pierre have a lot of duplication in production capacity. Advance President Mark Allen said, "Obviously, there is some duplication.” Allen went on to say, "Our plan is to look at those types of duplications, and we'll make the decisions as to what we end up doing as to what's best for company.” Not the most reassuring words to Advance plant workers, but unlike the Bar S/Alfa situation, several of Pierre’s plant are union. Advance’s Oklahoma plants are non-union, which should be an advantage in retaining jobs. In fact, post merger plans call for the Enid plant to produce some of the products Pierre was making elsewhere. Brian Hayden, Advance’s Vice President of HR says, “We’ll actually see fairly immediate growth in production output at our Enid facility.”
I’m not sure if Oklahoma’s elected officials have been in contact with the management of Alfa or Pierre. If not, that should be done immediately. The executives at both companies should be educated on the advantages Oklahoma offers. We are centrally located geographically. There are a myriad of advantages from a logisitics standpoint because we are in the heartland of American. Oklahoma has a mild climate. We are close to where the raw ingredients are grown- peanuts, wheat, corn, beef, pork. We have a great workforce.
I’m afraid with a lame duck Governor, a Lt. Governor and a Congresswoman scrambling across the state campaigning for election the important task of ‘taking care of business,’ may slip through the cracks. Three thousand Oklahomans need some quality salesmanship on the part of our elected officials.
The consumer products/food industry isn’t the most sexy or glamorous, but it is among the most stable. If Oklahoma wants to recruit long term, stable jobs to the state, they should make a concentrated effort to go after the consumer products industry. But first, they should take care of the processors/manufacturers already here by insuring we don’t lose them to another state or country. You’ve heard the saying- ‘dance with the one that brought you’ which means that you should pay proper fealty to those who have gone out of their way to look after you. Let’s take care of business even if it is election time!


Liberty said...

I work for Pierre Foods. We don't nor have we ever in the entire history of the company had a union plant even for a day. Please get your facts straight.

Steve Fair is a political activist. said...

Please email at I will correct my errors if I can confirm with someone from Pierre that you do not operate union plants. My information on the union issue was second hand, so perhaps I was wrong. I will certainly 'get the facts straight' on that issue. The POINT of the op/ed was that Oklahoma leaders should have been contacting Pierre to sell them on the advantages of our state.

Thanks for reading,