Japanese sweets company to open new Orange County manufacturing facility
The company, founded in 1899 in Tokyo, makes products including milk caramel, chocolates, cookies, and items such as cocoa mix and frozen desserts, according to a news release from Gov. McCrory’s Press Office.
Steve Brantley, Orange County Economic Development director, said the new facility is expected to be used for the production of a chewable fruit snack called Hi-Chew. The company has a U.S. subsidiary that launched in 2008, distributing the candy on the West Coast. It has expanded eastward, and plans to finish setting up a distribution network by March of next year.
To tap into growing demand for the product, the company decided to open a manufacturing site and to buy a factory site in North Carolina, according to a release from Orange County Economic Development. Production is expected to start at the new facility in mid-2015.
“It’s a transformative project for us, where we’ve historically not been a county considered to be in the game of business recruitment to achieve this success,” Brantley said.
He said the new facility will be in Orange County’s Buckhorn Economic Development District, which is on the western side of the county near the Alamance County line and Mebane’s Tanger Outlets.
The facility will be in a largely undeveloped district. Brantley said the site is across Interstate 40 from where companies such as foam manufacturer Armacell; mattress maker Kingsdown Inc., packaging company MeadWestvaco, or MWV; GE Energy Solutions, and AKG of America have existing operations.
While Brantley said the north side of the highway where those businesses have operations has easier access to Mebane’s water and sewer infrastructure, Morinaga’s facility will be on the south side. Orange County will be extending lines to allow the company to connect to Mebane’s systems.
David Cheek, Mebane’s city manager, said Orange County will be building water and sewer lines to connect to Mebane’s water and sewer systems. According to an agreement reached in July of last year, the city will take over and maintain those lines once they’re finished, he said.
Officials are targeting the completion of the water and sewer connections before Morinaga’s facility is finished, Cheek said, adding that the company plans to start construction next spring, and to be up and running in 2015.
“The way Mebane’s policies work, if you are not in the city limits and we provide you water and sewer, then your water and sewer rates are double what (they would) normally be, so a lot of companies will just do the math, and see what works for them, whether they want to or not,” he said. “(We) expect them to want to be annexed.”
The new jobs from Morinaga’s new Orange County plant are planned to be created across three years, paying an average of more than $38,000 a year, according to the Orange County Economic Development release.
To help bring the company here, state leaders committed a performance-based grant of up to $264,000, according to the release from McCrory’s office. Under the terms of the award, companies receive no money up front and must meet certain job creation and investment performance targets.
The state’s grants also require matching incentive packages from local governments. Incentive agreements with the Mebane and Orange County have not yet been approved, the governor’s release states.
Brantley said Morinaga officials visited Orange County 11 times in 19 months. He said the competition for the investment from the company included Toronto; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia, Atlanta, Richmond, and “probably a dozen North Carolina counties.”
“If you can be chosen by a major, world-class, foreign company, then I would like to think it means you’re doing some things right, and hopefully additional, similar, high-caliber companies will follow, and create those jobs for our residents, and better jobs with benefits, and also help diversity the tax base…,” Brantley said.