Galesburg is losing more than 20 good jobs because a state agency has to close the Animal Disease Laboratory. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has operated the lab for more than 40 years.
After one employee retired, it couldn't find a qualified veterinary pathologist to hire at the salary the department of agriculture offered.
Former employee, Greg Fritz, retired a couple of years ago after working at the lab since 1976. Initially, he was trained on the job then worked mostly in virology. That included testing animal tissue for strains of bird flu, foot and mouth disease, and other viral outbreaks.
"Employees really felt good about helping. It wasn't just a job. It was always a process of learning and your improving skills." Galesburg's Animal Disease Lab had low turnover because employees were professionals, and they were well paid.
Fritz is very disappointed the community is losing those jobs along with the lab which was an excellent resource for farmers, pet-owners, veterinarians, and others.
Five years ago, the state agriculture department closed the Animal Disease Lab in Centralia, and all testing in the state was transferred to the Galesburg lab. After that, it conducted 450,000 tests every year. Until last month when it stopped accepting samples for testing. The work is now being transferred to a lab in Indianapolis. The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Urbana will take over after it's accredited.
The lab in Galesburg will close for good at the end of the month. Fritz says a number of current and past employees are planning to get together this spring.