Equal plant closure in Kankakee County

Equal plant closure in Kankakee County

The artificial sweetener manufacturer will lay off 89 workers and move out of state.

Merisant, an artificial sweetener manufacturer known for producing Equal, plans to close its Manteno, Ill. plant by mid-December and move out of state, the Daily Journal reports.

The closure will cost 89 employees their jobs, with many of those let go having worked at the plant for over 20 years. Seventy of the Manteno-based employees worked on the production line and were paid between $16 and $24 an hour.

Merisant is one of the largest artificial sweetener producers in the world, working with big name retail and food-beverage outlets like Wal-Mart, Costco, Aldi, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.

While management did not name the specific destination, the plant is said to be moving operations to a southeastern state.

The news came as a shock to workers at the Manteno facility.

“This was without warning,” one worker told the Daily Journal. “No one knew this was going to happen. I know I didn’t know about it until today.”

Merisant is just the latest large manufacturer to move operations, whole or in part, out of Illinois. In the past several weeks, Motorola and Caterpillar both announced more layoffs at their respective facilities.

Although unfortunate, the flight of manufacturing in Illinois is not surprising considering the Land of Lincoln’s broken workers’ compensation system, highest-in-the-nation property taxes and widening pension debts.

The unnamed southeastern state Merisant is moving to in all likelihood is a Right-to-Work state. Illinois’ lack of Right-to-Work laws puts it at a competitive disadvantage for manufacturing. Michigan, which passed Right-to-Work after the Great Recession, has created over 170,000 manufacturing jobs since 2009, while Illinois has created less than 15,000.

As Illinois politicians hem and haw over real solutions, big employers are leaving the state in droves. The Prairie State must pass pro-growth reforms if it wishes to retain and grow its manufacturing sector. Otherwise, more companies may follow Merisant’s lead.

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