Recently Hersheys the chocolate maker announced that they will be shutting down their Canadian Plant and moving it to Mexico to lower their costs. The plant is located in Smiths Falls, Ontario, my hometown. I grew up a mere two blocks away from the plant and every morning would awaken to the delightful smell of fresh chocolate that spread throughout our neighborhood. That was until the sewage treatment plant was built downwind of us. Then there was a weird cocoa poop smell. We were never sure if it ruined chocolate for us, or increased our love of feces.
Smiths Falls doesn’t have a lot of industry. The biggest employer was the Rideau Regional Centre, a long-term hospital for mentally handicapped people that were too sick or dangerous to themselves and others to live outside the centre. That hospital employed 800 people and is in the process of closing its doors too. Hersheys employees 500 people and is one of the very few tourist attractions in Smiths Falls, after all no one wants to visit a mentally handicapped hospital or it’s gift store, “I visited the Rideau Regional Centre and all I got was this lousy Congenital Minamata”
So we look at the numbers, 1,300 people out of work, plus the dairy farmers that provide the 39 million liters of milk each year to Hersheys and all the tourism spots and restaurant workers and associated businesses that will close in a town of only 9,000 people. If we estimate the numbers we come out with the percentage of the population in Smiths Falls unemployed by these two closures being somewhere around… fucked%. That’s right fucked%. A small town like this can’t survive such a hit.
Over the years I’ve known lots of people who worked at the Hersheys, it was a mainstay of high school students in the summer. Living just down the street I used to look at the door at midnight when the night shift was over and get caught up with my buddy Gord as he biked home after a long day. Friends, family and their family and friends have all worked there. There are quite a few couples and entire broods that depend on that plant to put more than just peanut butter cups on the table.
I have to blame myself for it though. The Hershey plant has always given free chocolate bars when you either took the self guided tour or went into the warehouse store and bought something. My friends and I would get on our bikes and head over to buy a Nut Milk Bar, the cheapest thing they had at the time at $0.45 and come out with three full sized free chocolate bars. That’s the only explanation I have for them needing to move the plant to Mexico to save money. I and my friends triple handedly broke Hersheys twenty years ago and they never recovered. I am dreadfully sorry to all the workers, farmers, truck drivers and tourism businesses whose livelihood I have unwittingly destroyed.
But on a serious note I hear a lot of people saying they will boycott Hersheys as a result of the closure. Please don’t do this, at least not right now. If they stop selling the chocolate now, they will lay off workers prior to shutting down the factory, your well-intentioned actions will do more harm than good for the workers there. They’ll need ever hour they can get while the place is open. The plant is set to close sometime in 2008, so please keep buying the product until then. Then move to Cadbury’s, at least they still have a plant in Canada.