DANVERS — Nova Scotia-based High Liner Foods is consolidating, after netting three seafood companies in recent years, and yesterday it said it will close its local processing plant on Electronics Avenue.
The company plans to stop frozen seafood processing in the Danvers Industrial Park sometime in the first quarter of next year, meaning the loss of 127 hourly workers who run the plant, the company said in a statement.
High Liner Foods processes about 25 million pounds of seafood, primarily haddock, cod and pollock, in Danvers.
Another 125 salaried jobs in administration, sales and marketing will remain for the time being at what was the company's headquarters in the United States, said Keith Decker, president and chief operating officer of High Liner Foods (USA), in a statement. The company is evaluating its options for the Danvers facility.
The revenues of the town's electric division will also take a hit, given High Liner Foods is the second-largest electric customer in town, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said.
A large facility in Portsmouth, N.H., now serves as headquarters of High Liner Foods (USA), and it will be getting some of Danvers' manufacturing capacity, Decker said.
"We're all aware that this is a very difficult day for the workers and their families," Decker said. "We're extremely grateful and proud of their contributions to our company's success. This decision is about doing what's best for the future of our business and making sure we're operating in the most efficient way possible to be competitive."
"We hope that by giving them this significant advance notice, and phasing in the reductions, that this will give them the ability to prepare for the changes," Decker said.
Decker could not pinpoint when the Danvers plant will stop manufacturing seafood products.
"It will depend on a number of factors, including the timing of when we can shift our production volume to other sites," Decker said.
The company plans to work with local employment organizations to assist workers, Decker said. Mary Sarris, the executive director of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board, said yesterday she was unaware of the layoffs at High Liner, but she would contact those involved.
In a statement yesterday, High Liner said the consolidation was prompted by "overcapacity at several plants and the acquisition of a more modern plant in Newport News, Va., in December 2011."
In addition, a plant in Canada with 121 full-time employees and 28 part-timers will close by the end of December.
"High Liner Foods has grown through three recent acquisitions, and many of High Liner's plants are operating below capacity," said CEO Henry Demone in a prepared statement.
Given the North American market is competitive with consumers who are sensitive to price, Demone said the company had to be "cost-efficient to remain competitive."
"Despite our growth, the reality is that we only need four North American plants to supply our customers," he said.
Yesterday, around 10 a.m., Marquis said he received an email from Decker saying the Danvers facility would be shut late in the first quarter of 2013. The town plans to get in touch with the company to find out how many affected workers live in town.
"They are certainly a significant presence in town," Marquis said. "They have been here for many years."
The plant is in the original industrial park in Danvers, Marquis said. The plant property, which encompasses 100,000 square feet and sits of 8.48 acres, is assessed at nearly $6.3 million and pays $121,300 in property taxes.
"They expect to sell the building within three years," Marquis said, adding that "the reuse of the property is important for the town."
Marquis said the plant has worked hard to be a good neighbor, spending more than $1 million over the years to mitigate complaints of odor emanating from the facility while working with neighbors, officials and Public Health Director Peter Mirandi.
Concerns about odors date back to the mid-1970s, according to town records. The plant's "offensive and objectionable" odors were the subject of an enforcement order from the former building inspector in 1997.
At the time, a study called for a new filtration system to reduce emissions and lessen neighborhood concerns about frying odors from fish processing. In 2005, two new roof-mounted air cleaners were proposed at a cost of $363,000, according to town records. The facility was called Ocean Cuisine International at the time.
High Liner Foods (USA) is a subsidiary of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia-based High Liner Foods, North America's largest marketer of prepared frozen seafood products.
High Liner's predecessors bought the plant in 1973, Decker said. Fishery Products International Limited had operated its U.S. division in Danvers since the 1970s. In the early 2000s, Fishery Products International briefly changed its U.S. division's name to Ocean Cuisine International but then changed it back.
High Liner acquired Fisheries Products' North American marketing and manufacturing operations in December 2007. In December 2010, High Liner purchased the United States-based assets of Viking Seafoods, and this past December, it bought Icelandic USA Inc.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanverSalemNews.