ECONOMIC INVESTMENT — Just a couple years ago, Seneca built this 225,000 square foot warehouse, which will be closed at the end of pear pack as operations cease at both the company’s Sunnyside facilities.

SUNNYSIDE — When October rolls around, about 70 people will no longer have jobs.

Seneca has made the decision to close its Sunnyside operations, which pack apples and pears.

“We will be closing the facilities after the completion of pear pack… sometime in October,” CFO Tim Benjamin said.

The company, he said, has decided to exit the pear and apple canning business due to declining markets.

Benjamin said there is a decrease in consumption of canned fruits, and the competition from other countries contributed to the decision.

“It’s something we’re not happy to do,” he said of the closure.

The facilities in Sunnyside consist of a 265,000-square foot main facility on South Fourth Street and the new 225,000-square foot warehouse on South Hill Road.

Those facilities will be placed on the market in the near future, Benjamin said.

“Like I said, it (the decision) wasn’t taken lightly… it’s just an impossible circumstance.”

Seneca purchased the operations from Independent Foods, which employed about 380 people during harvest, in 2013 after announcing its intent to do so in November 2012.

Port of Sunnyside Executive Director Jay Hester said, “This is a big thing.”

The first industry to be served by the Port’s wastewater treatment plant was Seneca’s predecessor, Independent Foods.

Hester said the wastewater treatment plant was constructed after that company approached the Port of Sunnyside commissioners.

“So, they are one of the three largest industries,” he said.

The hope, said Hester, is another company will purchase the property before Seneca shutters its doors — for the employees and the Port’s sake.

“They’ve been a great partner with the Port,” he said of Seneca.

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