Media Center
  • Thursday, November 19, 2015
    Blue Bell restart will be boost to local economy
    Production at Blue Bell Creameries’ plant here is beginning with “baby steps,” but the psychological boost it provides is significant.
     
    Blue Bell officials announced Wednesday that ice cream was again being made here on a limited basis so the company can test new procedures, facility enhancements and employee training.
     
    All of the ice cream rolling off assembly lines here will be closely monitored and tested, company officials said.
     
    There is no firm date when ice cream made here will be available for sale.
     
    Blue Bell called back 70 furloughed employees, and that number is expected to increase as production rises.
     
    Blue Bell in April halted all production when Listeria was found in ice cream, eventually laying off hundreds of workers.
     
    Despite that, economic indicators such as sales tax revenues and unemployment levels have been relatively stable.
     
    Washington County Judge John Brieden said he expects Blue Bell’s announcement to result in an “uptick” in economic activity.
     
    “Our economy has absorbed a lot of things,” said Brieden. “It (the impact of Blue Bell’s halt to production) has been there. It’s just been absorbed by some of the other things going on.
     
    “I can see it carrying on into the Christmas season. I think businesses are going to say, ‘OK, it’s back, now I’m back’ and plan accordingly.”
     
    Page Michel, president/CEO of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said Blue Bell’s news was welcomed not only here but in other areas of the state.
     
    “After the news broke, we received calls and emails of congratulations from other chambers across the state, because they all know the importance of this great company to our economy in Brenham,” Michel said.
     
    “They’re also happy that it will soon be in their stores too.”
     
    Brieden said he has been amazed by the loyalty shown by Blue Bell’s customers.
     
    “During this entire process, every place I have gone, people from across the state have been asking ‘when are we getting our Blue Bell back?’
     
    “I’ve been telling them that they’re working to make it (production) more modern, more efficient and that when they do come back, they’ll be better than ever,” said Brieden.
     
    “I think one of the things that has been important for me to watch on this ... all across Texas the loyalty to Blue Bell is absolutely amazing, the number of people saying ‘I can’t wait to have it back.’
     
    “They’re going to have trouble keeping it on the shelves.”