Colorado Mesa University Wants To Sweeten The Deal For Workers At The Russell Stover Factory Closing On Western Slope

· Feb. 27, 2020, 12:44 pm
A store manager arranges merchandise in a Russell Stover Candy store in Overland Park, Kan., in this file photo.

As Montrose braces for the loss of one of its largest employers, Colorado Mesa University wants to help the people expected to lose their jobs land on their feet.

Around 400 people stand to lose their jobs when Russell Stover closes its chocolate factory there in March 2021.

Now, Colorado Mesa University is offering a year of free tuition to those who get laid off.

Several workers have already stated a desire to go back to school, Gary Ratcliff, who directs CMU’s Montrose campus, said.

“Some express excitement of, ‘This is something I've always been wanting to do, and I'm delighted I can take advantage of it,’” Ratcliff said.

The university says it will let former Russell Stover employees attend any of its three campuses for two semesters, with tuition and fees waived. That idea came from CMU President Tim Foster.

“He understood the significance of the plant closure to the community of Montrose and wanted to do something to help the community rebound from this,” Ratcliff said.

The Russell Stover facility in Montrose has operated for nearly 50 years, and it’s the candymaker’s only plant in the West. The company is offering employees opportunities to transfer, retire early, or take severance packages.

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