The Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce says employees at RR Donnelley in Jefferson City received notice at 7:30 Thursday morning that the plant will be closing as of October 1st.
Missy Bonnot is the Director of Economic Development with the Chamber. Bonnot says the plant, which prints textbooks and other products, had 473 full time employees as of May of this year. She says there are likely additional part time staff employed at the plant as well.
“It’s huge, huge to Jefferson City… plant closings in Jefferson City just really don’t happen very often, we have been blessed in that regard. But they’re very good paying jobs, I would say average of $20/hour. A lot of couples work, there, spouses… and it’s going to be really big for our community,” Bonnot said.
You can listen to the entire interview with Bonnot from Thursday morning shortly after the news broke here:
Bonnot says RR Donnelley is among the top 15 employers in Jefferson City, and among the top five private employers. She says the Chamber works with the company on a regular basis, and the news comes as a shock.
“I really don’t know the reason why. I know it was a competitive situation between two particular plants that they were looking at closing. Because ours was the largest, they would incur the most savings with the Jefferson City facility, that’s why Jefferson City was selected, but I don’t know the reason,” Bonnot said.
Bonnot says the Chamber’s first course of action will be to see if anything can be done to stop the closure form happening.
“We are going to get our city officials, county officials ready to go meet with them to see if there’s anything absolutely at all that we can do to keep this from happening. Whether there’s incentives or anything that we can do to help. And I can tell you there (have) already been conversations with the Governor of Missouri to help in that regard,” Bonnot said.
If that’s not possible, she says, then the focus moves to the hundreds of employees that will be left without a job. She expects the state to have a rapid response team work with employees, and says the Chamber will work closely with that team. She holds out hope that the employees could stay in Cole County or the region, and says there could be some opportunities in Jefferson City.
“We do kind of have a printing cluster going on in Jefferson City, between Command Web, Scholastic is somewhat in that realm as well, although they don’t do printing right on site. Modern Litho-Print, a local printer that we have here, they do some printing as well. So we do have some opportunity for individuals with those kind of skills to be employed,” Bonnot said.
She says the local plant prints primarily textbooks, and the trends of schools moving toward electronic books may have been a factor. But she says the plant “had a banner year” last year in regard to production, and also renewed its contract to print Grainger’s catalog, and prints other books as well.
Looking even further into the future, Bonnot says, the Chamber may have recruiting work to do.
“They have a huge facility, 700,000 square feet plus that sits on 30 plus acres, right in the core of our community. Marketing that facility for any potential prospects that might be interested,” Bonnot said.
She says the employees were notified about their severance packages Thursday morning.
Bonnot says it’s not clear whether employees will have an opportunity to stay with the company. She says RR Donnelley does have a plant in Owensville, MO that was recently expanded, but she’s not aware if the Jefferson City employees will have any opportunity to transfer there or to other plants.
RR Donnelley in Jefferson City referred KBIA to its corporate communication office, and those officials have not responded to our calls so far Thursday morning.