BERLIN — Merial Select confirmed this week it will be closing its Berlin doors effective next year.
Though the majority of Merial’s approximately 45 employees are expected to lose their positions, town officials are optimistic that the facilities closing will not adversely affect Berlin.
Mayor Gee Williams compared Merial’s shutting down to when the Tyson plant likewise left Berlin in 2003. That departure meant the termination of about 600 jobs. However, the town was able to weather the event relatively well, according to Williams, and the expectation is the same with Merial.
“It all depends on where the employees live,” he said. “Years ago, when Tyson closed down, people were really concerned about what impact that would have. And out of all of the employees, and they had a lot of employees, almost all of them lived in southern Delaware and Virginia and other counties other than Worcester.”
Williams expressed sympathy for the roughly 45 current employees who will be out of work next year but was certain that the closing will not be felt much in Berlin.
“Fortunately, for the town, I don’t think it will have any significant impact on the town in any economic terms,” he said.
One area where Merial staying open could have helped Berlin would be as a customer for town water and sewer service. Berlin’s coverage doesn’t currently extend that far, though Williams confirmed that the town had developed a plan to offer water and sewer to properties on the other side of Route 50. However, he explained that there’s more than one plan on the board and Merial’s departure does not throw a wrench into any gears.
“One plan was to go to Route 50 and stop, and the other plan was depending on if we had a commitment from one of the property owners on the other side,” the mayor said.
Merial could have been one of those properties, Williams admitted, but is not the only potential customer on the northern side of Route 50. Town Administrator Tony Carson confirmed that there are properties in that area that have expressed in interest in receiving town water and sewer in the near future.
Williams added that Merial has been “on the fence” about leaving Berlin for at least a few months so that the facility closing has not caught the town by surprise.
Natasha Mahanes, director of North American Communications for Merial, released a statement about the Berlin branch’s closing. Like Williams, she said that it was difficult to phase out the positions at the facility, but that Merial encourages any Berlin employees to apply for new positions within the company.
“The Berlin site currently employees approximately 45 people,” she said. “While Merial regrets that a majority of those positions will be eliminated, we are making every effort to support employees through this transition. We will also welcome employees to apply for open positions at the Athens and Gainesville, Ga. sites.”
According to a release from Merial, the “strategic decision” to close the Berlin facility is being made to reduce “manufacturing site network complexity and [to] utilize the capabilities of the existing plants more efficiently.”
Merial specializes in animal health care, including domestic treatment for dogs and cats as well as vaccinations for cows, pigs and horses, among others. While doors are set to be closed in mid-2014, Merial plans on gradually transferring vaccine production actives over the next year-and-a-half away from the Berlin location. Merial employs roughly 5,600 people in more than 150 countries.