Laurel plant closing; workers will retain jobs, customers not affected
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., officials announced that they will consolidate the Laurel operations into the Hattiesburg sales center, effective Aug. 5.
All 43 Laurel-based employees will report to the Hattiesburg facility starting then, according to a news release from the company. The Laurel sales center will close on Aug. 5, and the building will be put up for sale.
“The closing of our Laurel facility will have no impact on our customers, as our associates will continue to serve them and this community with the same high standards that they’ve come to expect from Coca-Cola,” said Susanne Hall, West Region Vice President for Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED. “All Laurel employees will be transferred to Hattiesburg, and for those who work remotely to serve our local customers, the realignment will have little impact on their daily routines. This consolidation is about realizing efficiencies and strengthening our effectiveness, rather than operating two facilities within 30 miles of one another.
“We remain committed to our Laurel customers, this community and to our associates who live here, and our engagement and involvement will continue.”
Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee had fond memories of his time working there, but he was not happy to see the plant at 902 Ellisville Blvd., close down.
“It is sad to hear that the Laurel Coca-Cola plant, which has been a mainstay in the city for over 100 years, will be closing,” Magee said. “I remember working at that facility when I first got out of high school, when they still bottled the soft drinks here in Laurel, and everything was still in glass bottles.
“This local company has been a great corporate partner with many businesses, sports organizations and also the City of Laurel. One positive thing about their decision is that the 43 current associates will be able to remain employed, unfortunately not within the city of Laurel. We regret this change, but are fortunate that we were able to have them in Laurel for over 100 years.”
Coca-Cola UNITED acquired the Laurel sales center and warehouse in 2017, as part of a multi-year series of acquisitions throughout the Southeast. The company has had a sales center 30 miles away in Hattiesburg since 1992. During the past 16 months, Coca-Cola UNITED has continued to optimize its operations to assure the company is effectively and efficiently serving its customers and markets, company officials said in the news release, and the Laurel consolidation is part of that effort.
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., founded in 1902 and headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., is the second largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the fourth largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States. Laurel Coca-Cola and Hattiesburg Coca-Cola are part of UNITED’s West Region, which includes 16 distribution and production facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi. Coca-Cola UNITED has approximately 10,000 associates located in more than 60 facilities across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Among the franchises operated by Coca-Cola UNITED is Chattanooga, the world’s first Coca-Cola bottler, and Atlanta, headquarters of the worldwide Coca-Cola System.