Compass Minerals closing Kenosha salt packaging plant

Facility employs 38 people

Salt is delivered to Port Milwaukee.

Last updated on May 14th, 2019 at 07:25 am

Kansas-based Compass Minerals International Inc. plans to close its Kenosha salt packaging facility by April 11, eliminating 38 jobs in the process, according to a notice filed with state officials.

Salt sold by Compass Minerals is delivered to Port Milwaukee. The company is closing its Kenosha packaging facility.
Credit: Arthur Thomas

The facility at 4500 13th Court dates back to the late 1800s and was acquired by Compass Minerals in 1998. The plant processes different grades of salt with other raw materials to produce a consumer-grade deicing product.

In a statement, the company said the closure is “due to a variety of business factors.”

“Decisions that directly impact the lives of our employees are extraordinarily difficult and our focus right now is on our impacted employees,” the statement said. “Compass Minerals remains committed to our customers and blending and packaging will now be managed through a third-party partner in the region. We will continue to operate the Eaton warehouse, making product retrieval seamless for our customers. This change does not impact our bulk deicing customers.”

For the nine months ending Sept. 30, the company’s sales were up 11 percent. Gross profit margins, however, were down from 22.35 percent in 2017 to 17.8 percent in 2018 on higher shipping and handling and product costs. Compass Minerals has seen revenues trend higher in recent years, but the company has also increased its emphasis on plant nutrition and fertilizer products.

In November, the company’s board of directors agreed to mutually part ways with chief executive officer Fran Malecha.

“Over the last several years, we have made progress toward building a balanced company for the future,” Dick Grant, chairman and interim CEO, said at the time. “The board remains committed to achieving best-in-class operational efficiency in our Salt business to maximize its cash generating capabilities and investing in our higher-growth, global Plant Nutrition business. We are now moving forward with a keen focus on execution in order to ensure we can drive value from these investments and deliver sustainable, long-term value creation for our shareholders.”

According to the company’s filing with the state, the closure is expected to be permanent and will result in 38 people losing their jobs. Thirty-one of the eliminated positions have union representation.

Most of the layoffs will occur starting Feb. 22 with the plant completely shut down by April 11.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection previously identified the presence of agricultural chemicals within the subsurface of the plant related to use of the facility by prior owners. Compass Minerals has done on-property investigations and provided results to DATCP and the state Department of Natural Resources.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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