Land O’Lakes closing Denmark plant, expanding Kiel plant

The Land O’Lakes plant in Denmark as seen on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (WLUK/Kelly Schlicht)
The Land O’Lakes plant in Denmark as seen on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (WLUK/Kelly Schlicht)

DENMARK - Nearly 100 workers in Denmark will soon be out of a job.

Minnesota-based Land O'Lakes, with $14 billion a year in sales, told workers Thursday it will close its Denmark cheese plant.

Land O'Lakes said in a statement the semi-soft Italian cheeses made in Denmark just aren't as profitable.

But the company also says it will be expanding another area plant.

FOX 11’s Kelly Schlicht sat down with a man who has worked at the Denmark location for 32 years.

“It was a good place to work. Good wages, good benefits, good insurance. It was just a good place to work,” said Rick Van Groll, rocking in a chair in his Green Bay living room.

A few years from retirement, Van Groll says he's out of a job.

“Started there in the spring or summer of 1982 and I’ve been there ever since. One of them deals where you get out of high school and started there and never went anywhere else,” he said.

Thursday, Land O'Lakes told Van Groll and more than 90 other workers the plant is closing in July.

“They weren't sticking the money into the plant and it was all just tell-tale signs. I saw it coming. A lot of people didn't. Still kind of a kick in the gut when you hear it for the first time,” he said.

Land O'Lakes declined an interview with FOX 11.

But in a statement the company said it will be "increasing capacity at its Kiel plant, known for its award-winning cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese production."

Land O'Lakes would not say when the multi-million dollars high-tech upgrades to the Kiel plant would start, or if the workers from here in Denmark would be hired.

Van Groll says he doesn't know if his position will be needed in Kiel.

“They just don't need as many guys as they used to, so I don't believe there will be as many jobs to be had in Kiel. But if they offered them I'm sure some of us guys would go,” said Van Groll.

Despite having to search for a job for the first time since high school, Van Groll remains optimistic.

“Time to start over. To start looking, and time to start over,” said Van Groll.

Land O'Lakes says the layoffs will begin on July 1 and last two to three weeks.

Van Groll says he thinks the impact will reach beyond just the workers employed there.