Sometimes, even the welcome news that an important local business has found a way to prosper in this economy still contains an element of disappointment.

The encouraging part of the story is that Barber Foods, a chicken entree speciality company in Portland, has merged with a larger food distribution company to create a business with $1.5 billion in annual sales.

The agreement includes a commitment by the acquiring firm, AdvancePierre Inc. of Cincinnati, to keep David Barber, the Portland firm’s owner, on as manager. Barber described the sale, for an amount kept undisclosed because both companies are private, as a “good fit” for the future of the local operation.

The local plant will soon see modernization and automation that will increase productivity. However, the deal will also mean “significant” layoffs locally. The company now employs 650 workers, but layoffs are expected soon among administrative workers as corporate functions are transferred out of state.

In September, production line consolidations will begin, with one line slated for closure. That’s serious at any time, but there’s an additional impact, because Barber Foods has a special character that makes these changes fall hardest on one class of workers: recent immigrants.

Barber has long received well-deserved praise for being especially welcoming to immigrant workers trying to get established in their new homeland. Its production lines have workers from many nations laboring side by side to create a new life for themselves and their families.

The plant’s long-term prospects have improved, and because of that, workers can hope that as its efficiency and profitability grow, the demand for its products will also rise, enabling it to boost employment again.