Technology replacing hundreds of Simplot jobs

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - A Caldwell Simplot plant will close at the end of the year, leaving 262 people unemployed. Two others in Nampa and Aberdeen will also close, laying off 600-800 employees total.

"Technology has really made it so the production of each worker can be really magnified, so Simplot's just making use of that," said Andrew Townsend of the Idaho Department of Labor.

A new plant in Caldwell will be built where the old one stands now and all three working plants will be shut down. Townsend said that he believes Simplot will hire some of the laid off workers for the new facility, but it will only employ 250 employees. He said the company will also be hiring from outside of the company.

"I know that the new plant that's coming in uses a lot more technology, so there's probably going to be a skills gap between some of the line workers in the new jobs," said Townsend.

Simplot announced all three closures in 2011.

"My customers are so devastated," said Jamie Smith of Caldwell. "I mean, they've been there for years, 20 years, 30 years... I mean, everybody is freaking out. They're like, 'What are we gonna do? I don't know what to do."

Smith manages a payday loan business.

"Everybody's like, 'Oh my God, we can't even do Christmas.' Every penny they have, they have to save right now because they know they're not going to have a job," she said. "I probably have, literally, probably a hundred customers of mine that work for Simplot right now... They're all losing their jobs, all of them."

Simplot says most of its Caldwell workers will lose their jobs by mid-January.

"Money's tight to begin with, and then when you take away their job on top of that, that... doesn't make for a very nice Christmas for them," said Christina Haymes of Caldwell.

The new Caldwell plant already has several production lines open for testing. The Deparment of Labor expects it to be fully open early next year.

On December 16, the Department of Labor plans to have a job fair for the laid off workers.