USA: Sale of Latrobe Brewing Co clouds future of town
The departure of Rolling Rock beer from the Latrobe, a tiny Pennsylvania town it has come to symbolize, has left the future of local brewery workers - and the town's identity - in question, Associated Press prompted May 20.
The owner of the Rolling Rock brand, a U.S. subsidiary of the Belgium-based brewing giant InBev SA, announced May 18 that it had sold the brand to Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. for $82 million.
But the Latrobe Brewing Co., which has churned out the beer since 1939, is not part of the deal. It will be sold and Anheuser-Busch will begin making Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light in Newark, N.J., in August.
More than 200 workers were told that the brewery will continue to operate until July 31, and that the company is in talks with potential buyers, said George Sharkey, a union business agent for about 120 of the employees.
"We're hoping that it's not as devastating as it seems," said Sharkey, of the International Union of Electronics Workers/Communications Workers of America's Local 144B chapter. "We're hoping someone will come in and keep this facility operating."
Sharkey noted that the brewery has had equipment upgrades in recent years, including installation of a $14.5 million packaging line six years ago that was expected to double the plant's production capacity.
"It's in excellent condition," Sharkey said. "That's what makes us optimistic, that it's a very attractive facility for anybody that would be interested."
But news that Rolling Rock will be leaving Latrobe, a town of about 9,000 people, spells trouble for the local economy and has upset residents who have seen generations of local people go to work at the brewery.
Tom Marflak, Latrobe's mayor, called the move "an injustice for the city."
"It goes without saying how disappointing it is to hear the news that Rolling Rock will no longer be brewed in Latrobe," he said. "It goes beyond just the brewery."
He said the sale could lead to a rise in unemployment or the relocation of families. If the plant closes, he said, taxpayers would pay a price.
He said one of the brewery's selling points is its unusually dedicated employees, some of whom are from families that have been with the company for generations.
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