ST. CLOUD, Minn.. (FOX 9) - It's the end of an era in St Cloud as employees at one of the city's largest employers worked their last shift at the Electrolux freezer manufacturing plant.
"When I woke up this morning I thought, well, here goes my last day," said Loren Schanke, a forklift operator at the St. Cloud facility.
Hundreds of employees have punched the clock for the last time at Electrolux in St. Cloud. The freezermaker is consolidating its manufacturing operations to South Carolina, laying off 720 employees in the process. But, the workers won't be left out in the cold; 450 are enrolled in a dislocated worker program that will retrain them to get them back into the workforce.
"Every employer is looking for workers," explained Tammy Biery who works with Career Solutions. "It's just making sure these employees have the right skills to fit those jobs. That's where the challenge lies."
Workers have been making freezers in St. Cloud since 1945 and Electrolux is the eighth largest employer in the community. On their last day, employees signed paperwork and autographed the last freezer to roll off the line which will go to the Stearns County Historical Society.
This freezer was donated to the historical society to commemorate the closure of the decades-old plant. (FOX 9)
"I've been here ten years," Electrolux refrigeration repair technician Timothy Kiser. "For some of the people who've been here 20 or 30 years, this is a big part of their life. They were emotional to the fellow workers."
Some employees say they are happy to move on.
"My cup has always been half-full, not half-empty. It's a new adventure in life," added Kiser.
Meanwhile, others are sad to see a piece of St. Cloud's history put into the deep freeze.
"It really wasn't the plant, it was the people," said Schwanke. "The people were very good people. You spend more time in the plant than you do with people in your family, so they are family."
Career Solutions says a handful of employees will stay on until early next year to help wrap things up at the plant. An Electrolux spokesperson says the building hasn't been sold and the company is still trying to figure out what is next for the facility.