Lopez Foods Inc. announced the reorganization of its corporate board and management team that will direct the Oklahoma City-based meat manufacturing company into the new decade. The change is part of the succession plan the company adopted as part of its ongoing efforts to keep pace with technological and manufacturing advances that have allowed Lopez Foods, Inc. to provide its customers with the highest industry standards in food quality and safety.

The key transition is that of LFI Chairman John C. Lopez, who is retiring from the top leadership position he has held since 1992, when he and his wife Patricia took control of the manufacturing plant. Mr. Lopez will continue to provide his counsel as Chairman Emeritus of LFI's board of directors.

"The successful growth and profitability of a company lies squarely on the shoulders of its management," said Lopez. "Pat and I are proud of the influence we have had on establishing Lopez Foods as a leader in our industry, but it is time for us to pass the baton to those who are prepared to take the company to the next phase of its planned development."

Under the Lopez's direction, LFI experienced a tremendous rate of growth, especially during the past two decades. A highlight was its 97 percent growth rate in 2001 over the previous year's annual sales, propelling it towards the 13th largest U.S. Hispanic-owned business in gross sales.

"John's leadership and commitment in adapting Lopez Foods to the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base has been a major factor in the growth of our company," said LFI President and CEO Ed Sanchez. "Involvement of his sons John -- recently elected to the board of directors -- and Dave in the company's management will ensure the Lopez presence and perspective in our growth and development."

According to Sanchez, the company's progress over the past twenty years has been based on the grooming and development of its management team to meet the long-term objectives identified in the formative stages of LFI's evolution. In a highly regulated industry it has established itself as one of the most respected and knowledgeable management teams that provides the highest standards in food quality and safety for its growing list of customers and employees.

"John's and Pat's influence is evident throughout LFI and forms the base upon which this company is founded. We wish them every success as they embark on the next leg of their lives' journey -- spending more time with their children and grandchildren and enjoying the fruits of their labors," said Sanchez.
He added that the couple may have freed themselves from the food manufacturing business, but they are also co-founders of Suenos LLC, a hotel development company that last month opened its first Cambria Suites Hotel in Oklahoma City. The 134-suite upscale hotel is the first of several planned by the entrepreneurial couple.
Lopez Foods' 185,000 square foot meat processing facility is situated on a 32-acre site in western Oklahoma City. It produces all-beef hamburger patties, pork sausage patties, and Canadian-style bacon for the McDonald's restaurant chain and supplies a variety of other meat products to a variety of customers, including: Applebee's, Burger King, Costco, Kroger's, Sam's Club, Sonic, Target, and Wal-Mart Stores.

The company employs nearly 450 associates in its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Oklahoma City facility, making it one of the city's major employers -- and with the production of approximately 300 million pounds per year, it is also one of Oklahoma's leading manufacturing companies.

Source: Lopez Foods Inc.

North Carolina trying to keep damaged Slim Jim plant open

Garner, N.C., and state officials are expected to meet with ConAgra executives today to discuss the future of the Slim Jim plant that was damaged in a fatal explosion last summer. According to theCharlotte News & Observer, the company will decide within the next 30 days if it intends to keep the plant open.

Numerous city and local officials are in Omaha, Neb., to discuss the situation at ConAgra's headquarters.

"We're making our case on why they should maintain their presence in Garner," said Tony Beasley, Garner's economic development manager.

There are incentives available to ConAgra if it decides to keep the plant open, the paper reports. Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said the company could get as much as $450,000 in funds and tax breaks. Since the June 9 explosion that killed four people and damaged the plant, ConAgra has laid off about 300 workers.

Source: Charlotte News & Observer

U.S. beef industry backs new proposed Australian import rules

Australia is poised to relax its ban on beef imports from countries that have experienced BSE outbreaks, and it has ignited a furor among Australian citizens, politicians and the country's agriculture industry.

But Steve Foglesong, from America's National Cattlemen's Beef Association, met with the Australian industry and argued for the change, reports ABC News (Australia).

"But it is a very emotional issue for everyone involved, and it has been for us," he said. "And I'm quite certain from what the guys said here that it is for you as well, and I understand your caution and maybe some skepticism at the same time. But if we weigh everything with science, then I think we get to the right answer."

The new import rules are scheduled to take effect on March 1, and the move has been backed by several industry groups, including the Red Meat Advisory Council and the Cattle Council of Australia. However, many groups have vigorously opposed the move, claiming it was a threat to the Australian beef industry. Australian Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan accused the country's government of ambushing its agriculture industry.

"The one thing that we have got in the marketplace in our favour is our green and (disease) free status and this gives that away," he said. "Australian consumers should rise up in anger and tell the government to go to hell."

Sources: ABC News (Australia), Sydney Morning Herald