Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2008

Rolando CEO looks beyond Crenshaw for first plant hires

By Billy Davis

The hiring of workers at Rolando Curtis Foods in Crenshaw has been delayed so interviews can expand to Batesville, the plant’s CEO said this week.

Rolando CEO Roland Butler said those interviews will be conducted June 4 at the WIN Job Center in Batesville.

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Some Panola County supervisors were expressing impatience over the long-delayed opening of Rolando when Butler made a long-promised appearance before the board on May 6, the same day supervisors had agreed to discuss taking board action over the unopened plant.

 He assured supervisors that job applicants in Crenshaw would be interviewed and hired within two weeks, and start work the day after Memorial Day.

Supervisors responded with compliments about the appearance of the plant, which had been abandoned and was in poor shape when Panola County government gave it to Butler in August 2006.

Over the past two years a skeleton crew hired by Butler has refurbished the building, but to date the company itself has yet to produce a product.

Since relocating to Crenshaw, Rolando has reportedly received more than 250 applications for food production jobs at the plant, and Butler acknowledged to The Panolian earlier this month that the impoverished town desperately needs the promised jobs.

But Butler acknowledged this week that he hasn’t hired any applicants from Crenshaw, even after WIN employees conducted interviews in Crenshaw in past weeks.

“I’m trying to get the best,” he said. “It’s best to do the interviews in both places so you have a better selection.”

The plant CEO then described his failed effort to locate and hire Crenshaw workers with experience in blow molding. The blow molding will permit Rolando to produce its own water bottles, he said.

Butler did not say how many workers he intends to hire with blow molding experience.

The interviews in Batesville will also allow Rolando Curtis Foods to hire additional workers beyond the first crew of 15 employees, Butler said.

Butler has agreed to follow a hiring schedule in exchange for the assistance of the WIN Job Center, an agency within the Miss. Department of Employment Security.

The Panolian has reported in past weeks that Butler owes past-due property taxes on the building and 10 acres. Those taxes haven’t been paid, and the county is due $17,921.59, which includes a four percent past-due penalty.

The penalty will increase to five percent June 1, said a spokesman with the county tax assessor’s office.

Butler relocated the food company from Maryland, where a federal judge had ruled in favor of a New York City bank that had sued Rolando for defaulting on a loan.