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Monogram Foods CEO visits Chandler plant; talks of plans to expand, add employees

A Monogram Food Snacks employee operates a bacon jerky station. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / Daily Globe)

CHANDLER — Monogram Meat Snacks is the biggest employer in Murray County with 390 employees, and Monogram Foods CEO Karl Schledwitz intends to keep it that way.

Schledwitz came all the way from Memphis, Tennessee to visit the Chandler plant Tuesday. The company plans to spend $5 million in 2017 on a new injection line, upgrades toward energy efficient lighting and other capital investments. The goal is to increase jerky production by 50 percent this year.

With the added investment, Schledwitz said the plant will need to add 30 to 40 new employees by spring or summer.

“We have openings right now,” Schledwitz said. “We have everything from managers to mechanics, to hourly entry level.”

The plant, one of eight Monogram locations around the country, makes jerky and meat sticks for brands such as Trail’s Best and Cotton Meats.

“We bought this plant in 2006 and there were 115 employees,” Schledwitz said. “Today there’s almost 400, so we have grown and we intend to keep growing.”

Although it’s a 40-minute drive, the majority of the plant’s workers commute to and from Worthington. Monogram Meat Snacks Human Resources Manager Horacio Mejias said about 75 percent of the workers at the Chandler plant live in Worthington.

Schledwitz added that Monogram started running a bus from Worthington to transport workers to the plant a year and a half ago.

“We pick up 134 people every day at the Worthington Walmart and have a bus come here,” Schledwitz said. “So, Worthington is the most important community we have in terms of staffing the plant.”

With such a connection to area communities, Schledwitz said the company liked to give back, particularly through supporting local programs.

The company created the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation in 2010. Since then, it has given more than $90,000 to local community organizations within 50 miles of the plant.

Every year, the Memphis headquarters conducts a fundraiser, including its “Meat Me in Memphis” gala, then distributes the money to plants. At that point, employees of the various plants review the grants and approve them, according to Schledwitz.

Last year, Monogram gave away $35,000 in grants, including grants to Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest and Junior Achievement of Worthington, which brought classroom kits to Fulda Public School and District 518 schools.

The company’s grant applications — available to all nonprofit organizations — open in March.

Monogram Meat Snacks was the company’s first plant acquisition. Schledwitz and partner Wes Jackson formed Monogram Foods in 2004 when they purchased King Cotton and Circle B brand meats from Sara Lee Corp.

The bustling Chandler plant operates under three shifts — two production shifts from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a sanitation shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

As another important goal for 2017, Schledwitz said the plant will make investments in its workers in addition to new technology.

“One of the things we're spending a lot of money on in this and the other plants is a full-time trainer,” he said. “These trainers are going to try to give the associates that work here an opportunity to get trained better so that they can move up and have a better career path. They’re also going to train existing managers how to be better bosses.”