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ConAgra Foods Jobs in Omaha May Be On the Line

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Sep 22, 2015

CEO Sean Connolly of ConAgra Foods in Omaha is said to be taking a top-down review of the company, according to an article in yesterday's Omaha World-Herald. Company investors are calling to improve ConAgra's profitability, and Connolly's review could significantly reduce the company's presence in Omaha, say reports.

What he does with his findings could change ConAgra substantially. On the line are at least some of the approximately 3,000 jobs in Omaha as well as the Fortune 500's company headquarters that have been in place there since 1922.

ConAgra Foods is known for popular brands like Orville Redenbacher's, Hunts, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice and Slim Jim. After Connolly announced the sale of the store brand business, earlier called Ralcorp, one of ConAgra’s primary units, he "left the door wide open" for further sales of parts of the company, analysts stated this summer. No options are out of bounds when it comes to getting the company back on track, Connolly said at the time.

The company threatened to leave Omaha in the1980s for Tennessee, which offered an enticing financial incentive package. However, the threat started a time of civic soul-searching, as it came on the heels of Enron’s 1986 departure from Omaha.

Clayton Yeutter, a native Nebraskan and former secretary of agriculture who served two stints on the ConAgra board, in the 1980s and 1990s — said if he were in the Omaha business community, he’d be worried that ConAgra could leave.

ConAgra so far hasn’t said either way what it's going to do, though it's clear the company is facing major challenges. The company reportedly won’t rule out selling its other two main units, one that sells to restaurants and institutions and one that makes grocery-shelf favorites such as Chef Boyardee canned ravioli.

Of the approximately 3,000 workers in the Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., area, about 800 work in a frozen-foods factory in Council Bluffs. Roughly 90 work in a factory in Lincoln that makes Fiddle Faddle and other products. In 2008 the company employed about 3,500 people in the Omaha area. A part of the consumer division in which employees work on frozen foods is also based in Omaha. The company has about 31,500 employees around the world.