In the middle of ice cream season, North County workers and residents received an unexpected shock. Wells Enterprises, which had invested more than $90 million in its Dunkirk facility, decided to abruptly pull out in late July. The company expanded from almost 20 production lines to five.
This week, community members learned through a worker adjustment and reskill reporting bill filed on Tuesday that a total of 319 people will be affected by the layoffs. That is unthinkable for a site that has been working to find workers for the last two years.
In fact, during a job fair at the Clarion Hotel in May 2021, the company’s President and CEO, Michael Wells, stated that more than 700 people work at the plant.
“We strive to be a good employer and partner in the community by providing stable career opportunities and expanding our relationships with the wider Dunkirk area,” he said at the time.
There is a belief that infrastructure problems with the facility may have led to some of the sudden changes. But nobody can be sure.
In a statement over the summer, company officials remained mum. “Wells Enterprises continually evaluates and evolves our business strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of our business and to meet consumer demand for our products,” it said in the statement. “As market trends change in our industry, we adapt and optimize our operations to ensure the continued success of our business. We recently completed a comprehensive review of our manufacturing footprint and needs in support of our overall business strategy.”
Also adding to the fear was a large freezing facility, Americold, that was being built near the ice cream maker. Just weeks before Wells’ announcement, the Williams Road plant held its grand opening.
Dunkirk remains a manufacturing community as facilities like Refresco and Nestle Purina continue to pull the plug. Wells’ cuts, however, have left residents and numerous county and area leaders in bad taste.