Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007

Coca-Cola to shut down Frederick plant

With 52 employees, the Market Street operation has nearly 100 years of history in city

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
‘‘It was a difficult decision,” Coca-Cola spokesman Curtis Etherly said of closing the company’s distribution plant in Frederick.
After nearly a century of distributing soda from its Frederick County plants, Coca-Cola Enterprises plans to close operations by the end of March, citing growth constraints.

The 21,000-square-foot building at 1205 N. Market St., Frederick, where a large Coca-Cola bottle perched on the roof has drawn tourists for decades, has housed the company for about 60 years. Before that, Coca-Cola operated at locations on North Market Street and Patrick Street, spokesman Curtis Etherly said.

With a growing product base, Coca-Cola’s truck traffic has increased but the Frederick site has little room to accommodate more vehicles or expand the plant, Etherly said. Each week the plant has roughly 75 large vehicle visits, from both 18-wheelers dropping off products at the plant and smaller delivery trucks.

Instead, the company is shifting its anticipated growth to other locations around Maryland.

‘‘It was a difficult decision,” Etherly said.

Coca-Cola considered leasing elsewhere in Frederick County, but decided to ‘‘we had room to expand at other facilities,” Etherly said. The company has not finalized its plans for the property, which is used for distributing, not bottling, soda.

‘‘Up to this point, we’ve been focused on getting our employees squared away,” Etherly said. ‘‘We recognize this is a decision that will have some impacts.”

The company last month announced the closure to its 52 employees and has been planning to try to relocate most of them to one of its 10 other facilities in Maryland, including in Rockville and Hagerstown, Etherly said.

Stacie Clark, career resource manager for Frederick County Workforce Services, said the department is prepared to offer free job training and work skills upgrades to any employees who may be laid off or want to change jobs after the closure.

Coca-Cola has been ‘‘very proactive in letting us know and we’ve been communicating with them,” Clark said.

The agency has assisted more employees than usual this year, she said. Since July, the department has helped roughly 250 terminated workers , including 51 laid off from Mercantile banks after PNC acquired the banking company, Clark said. From July 2006 to July 2007, her agency provided assistance to about 400 workers affected by company closures, she said.

Companies are required to file with the state in advance when plant closures could result in 50 or more layoffs of at least 30 days. Coca-Cola Enterprises is working on filing its closure forms, Etherly said.

Based in Atlanta, Coca-Cola Enterprises is a division of The Coca-Cola Co. Its revenues in its most recent quarter increased to $5.4 billion from $5.2 billion in the same period last year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Net income increased from $213 million to $268 million that same time period.