Closure of Mississippi manufacturer announced, loss of 150 jobs stuns community leaders, residents
Published 12:42 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024
On Tuesday, leaders and residents were stunned when managers at one of north Mississippi’s oldest manufacturing industries informed employees of the factory’s impending closure.
Crown, Cork & Seal, which opened in Batesville in 1987 with 200 employees, will cease production here March 29. Roughly 150 full time employees will lose their jobs, many who have never worked anywhere else.
Crown has long been a feather in the economic development hat for city officials. At full production the facility could produce nearly five million cans for drinks in a day, from the Canadian Molson beer to PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew.
“Employees are being treated well with severance and insurance, and for that we are thankful,” said Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar. “Of course, it stings when we lose any jobs, but we are confident that with an expansion at GE and a current shortage at Winchester that these employees will be able to stay in the area and make a living.”
Azar said when he and others began hearing rumors of a possible closure about six months ago he began asking for meetings with corporate executives, but those never materialized. “We were constantly asking for a meeting, so we feel that this was purely a business decision and certainly not a reflection on the local workforce.”
Azar said Crown, Cork & Seal, which has more than 200 packaging plants in 40 countries, has been an integral part of Batesville’s economy for decades, with generations of locals working together.
“Crown has been not just a good corporate partner, but a great partner for Batesville,” Azar said. “For a long time Crown has been the place to work, and you can see that from the low turnover numbers they consistently maintain. Those are high paying jobs, but we are confident that in the end those salaries will be replaced, and more, for these employees.”
Azar said he believes that Crown Holdings had intentions to stay in Batesville indefinitely, citing a $15 million investment in new equipment three years ago, but noted that the company’s plan to move into the canned water industry went awry and ultimately led to the local facility’s closing.
The national Green Initiative movement’s goal to replace plastic water bottles with water packaged in cans like soda and beer led Crown to build three new packaging plants in the southeast, each with state-of-the-art equipment in preparation for the bottled water industry’s move to cans.
Unfortunately, Azar said, the packaging of water in cans has not been perfected because the taste of the water is compromised and unsuitable for customers. “I’ve heard that the top scientist in the country worked on the problem for months and they still can’t do anything about the rusty taste that canned water has, even just a short time after it was sealed.”
Because the move to can could not be supported by the bottle water industry, Crown was forced to re-evaluate the cost of maintaining the Batesville facility when the newer plants were capable of greater manufacturing capacity at lower costs.
“It’s simple math,” Azar said. “I don’t like it, but I can understand it.”
Not only will Crown’s closing be a direct blow to the families who bring home paychecks from the factory, the impact on the revenue received by the City of Batesville and TVEPA will also be staggering.
Crown last year paid $317,178.02 to the CIty of Batesville in ad valorem and real (equipment) property taxes. The company also paid $507,652 in South Panola School District taxes, and $574,192.92 in taxes to Panola County.
Crown is also the city’s largest customer for the sale of natural gas, and water. Crown is also the largest electricity consumer, and TVEPA’s largest customer, in the city.
“This is a setback, no doubt, but my office has already started reaching out to prospective industries to fill that building when Crown operations are completed,” Azar said. “I’m putting the word out that we want manufacturing or distribution for the Crown building, and not just warehousing.”