Crypto affects local business

Written by By Terri Harber August 19, 2013 10:27 am

Kathy Orr / Baker City Herald -- Employees at Baker City’s Tasty Bake plant at 1945 Eighth St. learned Friday that they were being laid off.

By Terri Harber

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Tasty Bake Inc. laid off a large number of employees on Friday and most of them  worked at the Eighth Street plant in Baker City.

The business is best known for creating partially baked pizza crusts that can be topped and oven-finished. It also creates other forms of dough — such as balls and hand-stretched forms — for a variety of uses.

The website “Find The Company.com” states that there were 36 workers at that location.

Tasty Bake President Peter Johnson of Boise said in a prepared statement the reduction in workforce was related to the local cryptosporidium outbreak. The waterborne infection caused a significant loss of clientele.

He didn’t say how many workers were let go. Estimates from around the community range from a dozen to 30 workers laid off.

“Tasty Bake has suffered a great loss of business and the catalyst of the loss was the cryptosporidium in the Baker City water supply. This will result in an unfortunate layoff for a large portion of the Tasty Bake production staff and some associates in other cities.

“Tasty Bake’s payroll in Baker City has exceeded $1 million for the past several years. Tasty Bake spends in the neighborhood of $3 million annually in goods and services in the Baker City (and) Baker County communities. The combined impact of these two figures is significant.

“For Tasty Bake the most unfortunate part of this event is the Americans, our great staff, who do the work and who believe they are protected by local, state and federal organizations are the ones who will receive the stiffest penalty. They will be laid off. We consider this a travesty ...”

The meeting between Tasty Bake management and employees occurred on Friday morning. Personnel with OED also attended. They were informed of Johnson’s intentions on Thursday afternoon, said Ed Susman, regional manager of the OED, based in Ontario.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Susman said. “These are good jobs.”

He didn’t say how many people lost their positions at Tasty Bake or whether there were severance packages provided to any of these workers.

Tasty Bake had been advertising in the Baker City Herald for new workers as recently as Aug.14. The blind ad sought potential workers who could stand “for long periods of time.” 

The OED was there to assist the newly displaced workers by letting them know what would be available to them as they begin to look for new jobs and attempt to stay financially afloat until that goal is attained.

The displaced workers were given information about unemployment insurance and various programs aimed at helping them find new jobs.

Eastern Oregon “has been hit hard,” Susman said. “Hopefully these people won’t be out of work for very long.”

Johnson “has built a great business,” said Baker County Commission Chair Fred Warner Jr. “The county will try to provide any kind of help it can.”

The municipal water supply appears to be nearly crypto-free but additional test results that could show that the parasite has passed through are expected midweek, according to city officials.  

The company’s website, tastybake.com, gives this description of the dough:

“The special flavor and texture of Tasty Bake products is due in part to the purity of mountain fresh water. Our plant is located in a valley between the Blue and Wallowa Mountains. The high mountain lake water’s clean mineral structure combined with the Pacific Northwest’s finest whole grain flours result in a unique flavor and perfect cell structure for all our dough products.”

Johnson said he would be willing to discuss the situation further with the media later this month.