SALT LAKE CITY – In a recent article, St. George News reported the closing of Hi-Grade Meats, a long-standing reputable meat supplier based out of Salt Lake City. At the time of writing, the vice-president, Randy Maxfield, was on vacation and unable to give comment.
Maxfield has since provided us interview and explained the factors that have driven the closing of the company; those factors have merit to the original story but also resonate with struggles many small and mid-sized businesses are facing in this economy and with new regulations imposed on businesses and increasing costs of doing business.
“It wasn’t sudden,” Maxfield said. “We were trying to take care of customers, make more credit . . . but we lost Maverick Country Stores as a customer about 2 ½ years ago – they decided to go a different direction, had been a customer of ours for over 20 years.”
Maxfield said that the company has been struggling and has continued to operate as long as they could, that the family has put a lot of their own resources into the effort.
He indicated that the loss of Maverick as a customer wasn’t the only factor contributing to the economic struggle of the company. “The increased fuel cost of distributing the product,” is another. “Competition is stronger, it’s difficult to retain your market share.”
Maxfield continued, “Meeting the requirements a mid-sized company, 70 or more employees, is required to provide is extremely hard to do.”
“We are required to provide health insurance, we’ve tried to look at every option; a few years ago we tried to find a self-funded plan, but our group had some poor experiences with that.”
Maxfield summed it up with a sigh, “it’s tough to put your finger on one thing, but health insurance, fuel cost, and just increased competition – they make it more difficult to put your finger on.”
For those unfamiliar with the offerings of Hi-Grade Meats, they include various hot dogs, sausages and other meat products; some of these being items that can be priced only so high are likely difficult products to sell, with cost increase absorbing the company costs of fuel, medical insurance and the like.
With Hi-Grade Meats closing, and the concern of employees for losing their jobs, Maxfield said that he is sorry if their people feel they were blindsided, and indicated that the company is pursuing negotiations with a couple of companies who may be interested in taking over, even if under a different operation that would engage some of Hi-Grade’s employees.
Another thing Maxfield said that Hi-Grade is trying to do, as they exit the market, is to help those families and small companies who have relied on Hi-Grade’s quality products.
“We are scrambling to help those we have had a business relationship with to make key products, some that are even proprietary for them, 30-40 years, that are unique. We are trying to find someone that can assist them so their businesses are not negatively impacted.”
Hi-Grade has maintained an excellent reputation since it opened its doors 56 years ago. It will be a loss to its customers and the state, as they seek to wind down with honor.
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Copyright St. George News 2011