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More than 600 jobs to be lost in Lebanon County Perdue plant closure

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A Lebanon County poultry plant will close in March, costing the county about 620 jobs.

Perdue Farms announced Wednesday afternoon it will close the BC Natural Chicken LLC plant in Bethel Township on or around March 14.

It also said the lease for a distribution center in East Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, will not be renewed.

Perdue owns BC Natural Chicken, which operates out of the production plant at 2609 Route 22.

Company spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said between the two sites, about 650 jobs will be lost.

According to a news release, Perdue is consolidating production from the plant to more modern plants for production of its Coleman and organic brands.

"When we looked at our long-term needs, it became clear that the (Booth Creek Natural Chicken) plant would require significant and costly upgrades, and even then, we would not overcome the age and physical limitations of the facility," said Lester Gray, senior vice president of operations at Perdue Foods.

The plant currently ranks as the 14th-largest employer in Lebanon County, according to Pennsylvania's Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.

All employees will be given the chance to transfer to other facilities, according to the company announcement. Those who choose not to transfer will be offered severance packages that include extended benefits coverage.

The company also said it will work with other employers and outside agencies to find jobs for as many individuals as possible within the community.

BC Natural Chicken is one of three chicken-processing plants on Route 22 in the Fredericksburg area of Bethel Township. Also on the road are Bell and Evans, the county's fourth-largest employer, and Hain Pure Protein Corp.

Gov. Tom Corbett said he directed Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry Julia Hearthway to "take action," according to a state news release.

"Our job now is to immediately help those displaced workers become re-employed," Corbett said. "My administration has been in ongoing contact with Perdue. Our Labor and Industry Rapid Response workforce teams ... are poised to help the workers at the plant seek re-employment with one of a number of poultry processing plants in proximity to the Perdue plant."

The Department of Labor and Industry's Rapid Response unit provides workers who are facing a layoff with information on retraining, continuing education, job-seeking, health insurance and unemployment benefits.

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