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Monsanto will close Mystic seed research facility next year

Mystic — Monsanto Co. announced Monday that it will relocate its Maritime Drive research-and-development operations to Missouri next year, a move that will result in the loss of 40 local jobs.

The announcement shocked Stonington town officials who found out about the company's decision from a Day reporter on Monday afternoon. First Selectman George Crouse, Selectman Rob Simmons and Economic Development Commission Chairman Blunt White all said they had not been contacted by Monsanto about the decision. 

"They did not tell us. It caught me by surprise. If I had known I would have tried to negotiate something," said Crouse. "It's a great, great loss for the town."  

About half of the 40 positions at the company’s facility here will be transferred to Monsanto’s Chesterfield Village Research Center in Chesterfield, Mo., a St. Louis suburb, the company said. Company operations in Middleton, Wis., and Research Triangle Park, N.C., are also being moved to Missouri.

Monsanto announced earlier this month that it planned to consolidate its R&D operations, part of a plan to enhance its Global R&D Center of Excellence. The company said it determined that significant synergies could be realized by relocating some of the research being conducted in Mystic.

“Monsanto has been honored to be a part of the Mystic community,” David Somers, head of the Mystic operation, said in a statement. “We look forward to building on the great science that has defined the Mystic facility for years and utilizing these insights to further drive our research platforms to help farmers.”

Employees at the Mystic site have been developing new corn seeds, sometimes controversial work that natural-food activists have rallied against. Locally, the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center's 2014 acceptance of a Monsanto grant prompted an outcry, causing the nonprofit to revise its gifts policy.

Monsanto expects to close the Mystic site by the second half of 2016, with the remaining jobs to be eliminated at that time. Employees who decline offers to relocate to Missouri will receive severance packages. Those still working when the facility closes will be offered “enhanced separation benefits.”

“All employees will be provided with a separation payment, extended benefits coverage, benefits planning, educational/financial assistance and career outplacement services to help support this career transition,” the company said.

Monsanto, which owns the Mystic site, will seek a buyer for the state-of-the-art laboratory, greenhouse  and fields.

“We’re hoping that we’ll soon hear from parties interested in the site so that it remains a part of the community for years to come,” Somers said.

Simmons said the closure was very disappointing as the facility employs a group of "highly intelligent, highly trained sophisticated scientists." The skilled, well-paying jobs are ones that towns such as Stonington struggle to attract.

After learning of the closure, Simmons, who oversees economic development isues for the Board of Selectmen, said he spoke to an official at the company's St. Louis headquarters and received much of the information sent out in the company's press release. Simmons also learned the company plans to sell or donate the property. He also spoke to regional business organizations and plans to visit the facility on Tuesday to talk to management.

Crouse said he too will be contacting company officials on Tuesday. He said the announcement comes at a time when the town is looking to hire an economic development consultant. He said a priority for whoever is hired will be to find a new company for the building. 

j.wojtas@theday.com

Twitter: @joewojtas

 

 

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