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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Heinz to make statement on Thursday regarding Leamington, Ont., plant

LEAMINGTON, Ont. - Food giant Heinz is expected to make a statement Thursday on negotiations which could save a southwestern Ontario processing plant from complete closure.

The international company — a major employer in Leamington, Ont. — announced plans last November to shutter its facility by late June, putting close to 800 full-time employees out of work.

The mayor of Leamington said Wednesday that the company now plans to shed some light on efforts being made to save the plant.

"They said it will be a good day," Mayor John Paterson told The Canadian Press of Heinz's planned statement.

"They are working with a Canadian company in regards to Leamington Heinz plant."

Paterson said a number of serious business proposals regarding the facility had emerged ever since Heinz originally announced it planned to close the plant.

He noted that the municipality isn't privy to talks between the food company and interested parties.

The town has, however, been working recently to connect a serious "interested party" with provincial and federal governments and has been trying to arrange attractive water and property tax rates for it.

"We've been doing what we can to assist them from our perspective," said Paterson. "Those efforts are finished, we are where we can be. Now it's up to them."

The Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, which has also been working with interested parties, suggested Thursday's announcement may not provide as many details as plant workers might want.

"All I can tell you is that by the end of the day tomorrow they will have more questions than answer, because it is very early to be talking about this," said CEO Sandra Pupatello, adding that she expected Heinz to disclose whatever it could "at this early stage."

"Good for the company for coming out publicly tomorrow to at least say that there is something happening and it is hopeful. That in itself is very good news."

Meanwhile, Ontario's minister of economic development, trade and employment said while he couldn't comment on negotiations between Heinz and any potential investor or buyer, the province wanted to do all it could to support Leamington.

"Investors are coming forward with a real interest, I believe, to build a future in that community and bring sustainable good jobs back to that community," said Eric Hoskins. "We remain committed to finding a solution."

— By Diana Mehta in Toronto.

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