February Meeting Offered Options & Hope For Sidney Sugars Employees


March 29, 2023 | View PDF

Approximately 100 Sidney Sugars employees attended a meeting held in conjunction by Richland Economic Development and the Sidney Job Service on Thursday, Feb. 23 at the MSU Extension Office, Sidney.

“Normally, the Job Service would take the lead on something like this, but because of the great partnership we have, the Job Service did what they do best and then allowed me to bring other resources in,” said Richland Economic Development Corp. (REDC) director, Leslie Messer.

During the two-hour meeting, 10 speakers served as community resources speaking about the available options to employees facing lay-offs.

These speakers included Messer and Steve Olson, Sidney Job Service manager, who each gave an overview of the resources that are available at both the job service and REDC. 

Ron Slinger, Miles Community College dean, and Sara Engle, Dawson Community college workforce development director, discussed options that both community colleges and the university system will offer.

Kathleen Williams, USDA Rural Development state director, and Shandy Moran, Rural Development, Business & Cooperative Program Commercial lending specialist presented the available help through the U.S. Department of Ag & Economic Development Administrations.

Josie Evenson and Marley Manoukian, Montana State University Extension Office, reviewed options available through the Extension Office as well as discussing mental health options, and Paddy Fleming Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC), director, shared ways MMEC could assist displaced employees.

“I opened by telling the employees that REDC doesn’t have all the resources to help them, but we have some amazing friends who do. I was truly impressed by the prompt and quality responses we got from our speakers as well as their willingness to drive from out of town during terrible weather to be here,” Messer commented.

With many difficult decisions to make, some Sidney Sugars employees have decided to take a new job now, while others will wait until layoffs begin, but either way they have options available to help them succeed once they leave the factory.

Following the presentations people had the opportunity to talk with speakers one-on-one.

“I had half a dozen people approach me after the meeting and tell me how worried they and their families have been about the future. They told me that this was the first time in two months that they have had any hope about the situation,” Messer recalled. “I can’t put into words how powerful that was.”

Messer added that following the February meeting she has had consultations with some of the Sidney Sugars employees who are interested in taking advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them and want to do something different.

Messer went on to say that she has been contacted by several companies who are interested in purchasing the sugar beet factory, and that she has passed the information along to American Crystal Sugar and has gotten zero response.

The question of what will become of the factory weighs heavily on the community, especially considering that, according to public record, American Crystal Sugar still owes $37.5 million on the property. A $15,000,000 payment is due Aug. 31, 2023 and a final payment of $22,000,500 is due Aug. 31, 2028.

When contacted regarding this story, American Crystal Sugar communications manager Belinda Forknell stated, “We are too early in the process to have additional comments on plans at the Sidney facility. While we will discontinue producing product in April, we still have inventory at the location that we will package and distribute, taking us well into September, as we mentioned in our press release.”

Anyone interested in available resources can contact REDC at 406-482-4679.


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