LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4)- Butterball announced on Wednesday that it was closing its turkey facility in Longmont on Dec. 31. That means 350 people will soon be out of a job.

One man told CBS4’s Northern Newsroom reporter Mike Hooker that he has worked at the plant for more than 20 years. Another employee said he’ll have to find another job quickly or he’ll lose his house and car.

Employees were informed of the decision in a meeting that went late into the night on Wednesday. Butterball’s vice president flew in from North Carolina to break the news.

“It’s extremely difficult to get to this point. Obviously a decision like this affects lives and families and how a person’s going to survive,” said Butterball Vice President Michael Bliss.

Bliss said the biggest financial challenge for the turkey company has been the increase in the price of corn because of ethanol, and the government requirements that more corn be used for fuel.

“About 70 percent of the cost to produce a turkey is feed, so if feed costs are going up at that rate, that has a huge impact on our cost to manufacture and eventually it will be felt by the consumer. It has to be,” said Bliss.

He said the company’s annual feed cost is $325 million higher than five years ago. Combine that with higher fuel cots and closing Longmont is a hard decision reached to streamline operations.

“It came as a surprise but not as a shock,” said Longmont Area Economic Council spokesman John Cody.

Cody said with 14 new companies in town, Longmont has gained more jobs than it has lost this year, at least before the Butterball announcement.

“A hit that large is hard to overcome, but we do have a couple announcements we haven’t made yet,” said Cody. “The painful part is this particular population does not have skill sets that are going to make re-employment easy.”

Butterball said it will help the 350 employees with resumes and job hunting. For some, there may be opportunities to move and take jobs with the company’s other locations.

Butterball’s vice president said there are no plans to close any of the company’s four other plants.

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