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Officials discuss departure of Blue Bunny from southern Utah

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Posted at 4:22 PM, Sep 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-03 19:54:55-04

ST GEORGE, Utah – It’s a sad day for ice cream in southern Utah; the company that owns Blue Bunny announced this week they’re closing down their St. George production facility.

The 160,000 square foot plant is Wells Enterprise, Inc.’s only facility outside of Iowa, where the company is headquartered.

A company spokesperson said it employs about 90 people. It’s estimated half of those people will be left without a job when the plant closes down near the end of this year.

“We hate to lose them,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “One of the things I’ve heard is that this plant was hitting all of their goals and beyond in terms production and excellence.”

The company released a formal statement about the closure saying:

“This decision will enable the Company to optimize its existing capacity in Le Mars, Iowa to more efficiently serve customers and support Wells’ long-term growth strategy. The decision also allows Wells to more effectively compete in the ice cream category that has been flat to declining for several years, and has been further challenged by unstable commodity costs. Wells is mindful of the impact changes of this nature have on employees and their families  and is committed to helping impacted employees through this transition.”

The Blue Bunny plant was one of the first to locate to the St. George industrial park back in 2003. Business leaders said it was a business they used to promote industry in southern Utah, because of the way they did business and treated their employees.

St. George Chamber of Commerce president Gregg McArthur said, because of that treatment, he’s confident those displaced employees will bounce back quickly.

“One thing Blue Bunny did very well was hire the best of the best here in southern Utah,” McArthur said. “They did a great job of hiring and training employees.”

Pike said they’ll work with the Washington County Economic Development Office to try to find someone to replace Blue Bunny.

A Wells Enterprise, Inc. spokesperson said the transition of storage and production will happen over the next several months.