Kaskaskia College’s Lifelong Learning Center Hosts Pinnacle Foods

​Executives and employees of Pinnacle Foods gathered at Kaskaskia College’s Lifelong Learning Center last week to welcome, train and transition employees from the Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation.  As announced on January 30, Pinnacle Foods is purchasing the Centralia facility, which is home to 15 years of history and experience in making the company’s Duncan Hines products.  The sale is being completed today.
Pinnacle Foods is a leading manufacturer of many iconic branded food products, including Duncan Hines baking mixes and frostings, Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Wish-Bone salad dressings and Vlasic shelf-stable pickles.  Gilster-Mary Lee had been making Duncan Hines products for Pinnacle under contract and the purchase of the plant brings production in-house. 
Wearing red t-shirts with the Duncan Hines logo and the words “Celebrating 15 years of Sweet Success in Centralia,” Pinnacle employees filled the main gathering space in the Lifelong Center for a celebration on Thursday, March 27.  Along with Pinnacle executives and employees, representatives of the City of Centralia and Kaskaskia College were also on hand.
Dan Laquet, Operations Manager and Mike French, newly announced Plant Manager, both spoke of their excitement in welcoming more than 200 employees to the Pinnacle team, while Tony Fernandez, Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, outlined the company’s mission of reinvigorating iconic brands.  Fernandez said that Pinnacle plans to invest in upgrades at the plant and provide continued training for employees, as part of the company’s plans to reinvigorate the Centralia facility.  Pinnacle is retaining jobs at the plant and has already invested in new systems and infrastructure. The company is currently seeking to fill open hourly and salaried positions at the plant.  More information about openings can be found at 
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Beth DeNooyer discussed the company’s philosophy and transition to the “Pinnacle Playbook,” a set of operating procedures on which much of the training focused.  She assured employees that the company’s values of trust, candor, and ownership will make the Centralia plant a rewarding place to work. 
Mayor Tom Ashby of Centralia touted the City’s philosophy of being proactive rather than reactive as essential to changing the City’s image, and welcomed Pinnacle as the fourth largest employer in Centralia.  “This is a great day for Centralia,” he said.
Each of the speakers was highly complimentary of the College and the Lifelong Learning Center, particularly of the quality accommodations and the staff’s support during the week.  The celebration included a lunch catered by the KC catering department.
Kaskaskia College President Dr. Jim Underwood took the podium and spoke of the College’s commitment to meeting the training needs of the area’s companies, including bringing classes to manufacturers and other businesses when they are needed, and at times that are convenient to the learner.  “We are migrating programs to the workplace as part of our philosophy of bringing education to the learners, and to offer our world-class facilities to our partners in business and industry,” he said.  He pointed out that Lifelong Learning was not only the name of the building in which the meeting took place, it is also a tenet of success in the modern world.  “We believe in perpetual learning, in embracing change in order to continue to learn and grow. If you brace yourself against the winds of change, you will be blown over.”

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