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060819ho-simply-essentials-plant

The Simply Essentials chicken processing plant in Charles City closed Aug. 6.

CHARLES CITY — Owners of the Charles City chicken processing plant that closed last month and put more than 500 people out of work are marketing the building, but it might be difficult to find a buyer.

The market for the former Simply Essentials facility at 901 N. Main St. is narrow because the company focused on producing premium chicken products, according to Tim Fox, executive director of the Charles City Area Development Corp.

“The plant is too small to process market-rate chicken because it lacks economies of scale,” he said.

The Simply Essentials plant processed chickens fed a flax seed diet to raise protein levels and lower cholesterol. The meat was air-chilled at the plant rather than going through conventional processing.

The plant measures 65,000 square feet, but Fox said that is small compared to more traditional chicken processing plants.

Pitman Farms of California, which owns the building, is working with two brokerage firms — one in general sales and the other specializing in the food industry — to try to find someone to buy the plant, according to Fox.

“The owner hasn’t disclosed the (selling) price to me,” he said.

Pitman Farms did not respond to an email Thursday asking what their price is for the plant.

The last time a large commercial building in Charles City was sold was a year and a half ago, when Trelleborg bought the Mitas tire plant, according to Fox. Trelleborg continues to operate the facility as a tire plant.

Simply Essentials was in operation in Charles City from 2016 until Aug. 5 of this year.

Zoetis in Charles City, the largest employer in Floyd County, has hired some of the former Simply Essentials workers, according to Fox.

He said other area companies looking for employees also hired the chicken plant workers who lost their jobs.

With the current low unemployment rate, employers “are always looking for folks,” Fox said.

A job fair held on Aug. 13 in Charles City helped employers connect with the former Simply Essentials workers, according to Fox.

He said he’s aware that some of the chicken plant employees came from as far away as Waterloo to work there, but Simply Essentials never released how many workers it had per ZIP code.

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