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Unilever to close Hagerstown plant, idling 391

Unilever plans to shutter its Hagerstown ice cream plant July 27, resulting in layoffs for 391 employees.

“We have carefully evaluated the capabilities of the Hagerstown plant and have determined that greater efficiencies can be achieved by shifting production to other company plants in the U.S.,” Unilever spokesman Jeff Graubard wrote in an email.

“The decision was a difficult one and in no way reflects the dedication or performance of our colleagues at our site,” he wrote, adding that the Hagerstown facility is well-run.

Graubard said the closure was the result of negotiations with the plant’s employees union. Unilever will not transfer employees to other locations and is negotiating severance terms with the union. Non-union employees are eligible for severance and outplacement services to assist in finding new jobs, Graubard said.

Employees were informed of the closure in 2009.

Unilever is the world's biggest ice cream manufacturer, according to the Dutch company’s website. Its ice cream labels include Heartbrand.

Unilever isn’t the only major food company to recently announce impending layoffs in the state. Last week, Hostess Brands notified the state that it may lay off 158 employees at its Waldorf facility.

Six make Fortune 500, but most fell in ratings

Six Maryland companies made CNN Money’s Fortune 500 released this week — one more than last year — although most slipped in the rankings.

The top Maryland companies on the list of publicly-held businesses were Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, ranked No. 58 with $46.7 billion in revenues in 2011, and Constellation Energy of Baltimore, at No. 199 with $13.8 billion. Last year, those companies were ranked at No. 52 and No. 172, respectively. Both companies’ revenues also slipped from the previous year, with Lockheed Martin’s down from $46.9 billion and Constellation’s down from $14.3 billion.

Next year’s list likely is to have fewer Maryland companies.

Constellation recently was sold to Exelon of Chicago for $7.9 billion. And the state’s newcomer to this year’s list, Catalyst Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit management services company in Rockville, recently agreed to a $4.4 billion cash-and-stock sale to SXC Health Solutions of Illinois. Catalyst was Maryland’s fifth-largest business on the list, ranking No. 455 with $5.3 billion in revenues in 2011.

Marriott International of Bethesda dropped from No. 210 last year to No. 217 this year, although its revenues grew to $12.3 billion from $11.7 billion. Medical insurer Coventry Health Care of Bethesda also grew its revenues to $12.2 billion from $11.6 billion, but fell to No. 219 from No. 212 last year.

Only Host Hotels & Resorts of Bethesda managed to increase both its ranking and its revenues. The Marriott spinoff rose to No. 479 from No. 494 as its revenues grew to $5.0 billion from $4.4 billion.

Maryland ranks high in climbing earnings ladder

Maryland is among the top three states for employees to climb the corporate earnings ladder, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Researchers measured residents’ average earnings growth over a decade from when they were in their late 30s to late 40s; their upward mobility on the ladder compared with peers; and their downward mobility. Maryland, New Jersey and New York scored higher than the national average on all three of those measures.

Maryland workers experienced a 21 percent average increase in earnings over the decade, compared with 17 percent nationwide, according to the study by the Philadelphia nonprofit public interest group.

Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina were lowest in the mobility measures.