FITZGERALD -- The Chek/Deep South Beverage plant in Fitzgerald will be put up for sale as a result of Winn-Dixie Corporation's attempt to pull itself out of bankruptcy.

Winn-Dixie announced Monday that it plans to close 35 percent of its stores, eliminating 22,000 jobs, and cease operations in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Officials said that if there are no takers on the The Chek/Deep South plant, the plant will be reintegrated into the reorganized company.

"There are no plans to close this facility," Winn-Dixie Communications Manager Dennis Wortham said. "This plant is a vital and important part of the company and we hate to put it up for sale, but we're hoping we'll have the opportunity to rework it back into the new Winn-Dixie Corporation."

The plant is a big player in the Ben Hill County economy. The beverage and condiment plant employs nearly 240 people.

"We really appreciate the jobs that the Winn-Dixie company has brought to this area," Fitzgerald Mayor Gerald Thompson said. "We'll do everything we can to help and assist in the reorganization of their company or work with whomever the buyer is."

Thompson said that the city is already talking with potential buyers who are interested in the plant.

While Georgia is not one of the states where WinnDixie will cease operations altogether, there will be cuts throughout the state. The Tifton Winn-Dixie store will not close, Wortham said.

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