Conagra officials today issued a statement announcing the closure of the its Newport plant in January 2021.

Terah Fox, communications manager for the firm said employees of the plant were notified this morning.

 "These changes will allow us to optimize our expanded network, which grew upon our acquisition of Pinnacle Foods last year. We explored a variety of options and have determined that this decision will allow the company to increase efficiencies within the larger scope of our company. We regularly review operating costs across the business in an effort to become more lean, efficient and productive. This is a routine exercise that includes every facility in our network.

"As is always the case when we make a decision like this, we have the utmost consideration for our employees and how they will be affected. It is important to us that we treat impacted employees fairly and with a high degree of respect."

The Newport plant, which packages food products and also staffs a warehouse, recently underwent a consolidation. In 2006 the firm announced it would construct a new plant in Fort Worth, Texas, and redistribute its production of canned bean, chili and pasta products from six other plants, including Newport.   

The local plant currently has an estimated 514 employees and is the largest manufacturing employer in Cocke County.