A company in south Bibb County announced a big expansion Tuesday that will mean a sizable investment and more than 100 new jobs.
A $59 million investment will expand the existing Tyson Foods Inc. warehouse and distribution center from about 182,000 square feet to 345,000 square feet, officials announced. The facility is located in the I-75 Business Park off Hartley Bridge Road and Interstate 75.
As part of the growth, the company plans to add 102 jobs, bringing the total employment at the facility to nearly 240.
About 30 people, many of them Tyson employees, attended the event, held under a tent outside the building. Hand fans were provided to help swat away gnats and provide relief from the warm, humid morning.
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The Springdale, Arkansas-based company plans to build a two-story tower onto the existing facility, and construction is expected to begin late this summer, said Gary Standridge, managing director of distributing services for Tyson Foods. It is expected to be completed in late 2018.
“Our company is growing. Tyson Foods and (its) Hillshire Brands has been in a growth mode for a number of years now, and we continue to (grow),” Standridge said. “We’ve recently announced some other acquisitions, and we have to have the infrastructure, we have to have the warehouse capacity and the transportation capacity to support that business.”
The addition “will include some automation that will allow us to store higher, which is more economical from an energy efficiency (standpoint) and storage capacity and everything,” he said. “So it’s a win.”
The new equipment will involve more technology and would mean higher-paying jobs for skilled workers, he said.
“Hopefully, there are enough resources around here, enough qualified folks” for the new jobs, he said.
Mayor Robert Reichert said the community was fortunate to have the facility in the county, and that “Tyson has looked at this location to expand it and grow it even more. So, we are thrilled, thrilled, thrilled today with this additional investment in our community by such a wonderful corporate citizen.”
Earlier this month, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods acquired AdvancePierre Foods Holdings Inc. In the deal, Tyson made an offer to buy all the outstanding shares of common stock of AdvancePierre for $40.25 a share in cash, according to a June 7 release. The total value of the transaction was about $4.2 billion.
Standridge said plans for Tyson’s expansion began before the merger “but it gives us an opportunity to bring AdvancePierre into our network sooner. So, it was strategic, but we needed (the expansion) beforehand and now we’re going to need it even more.”
A lot of Tyson’s customers were also AdvancePierre’s customers, “so there are a lot of synergies to be had with that acquisition,” he said.
AdvancePierre is a leading national producer of ready-to-eat lunch and dinner sandwiches and snacks. Its customers include food service, retail and convenience store providers. The company employed about 4,500 people and generated revenues of $1.6 billion in 2016. It is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods.
The Bibb County distribution center serves retail and food service customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
“It’s real exciting for our team to know that we’re growing here, that we’re sustainable here,” Standridge said. “We’re looking forward to the future.”
Sara Lee Food & Beverage announced plans in 2006 to build the facility on 33 acres in the business park and said it would create 120 to 140 jobs. The total investment was estimated to be about $23 million at the time. It was the company’s first distribution center in the Southeast.
In 2012, the company renamed its North American operation as Hillshire Brands, although the Sara Lee name remained on bakery and certain deli products distributed by Hillshire. In 2014, Hillshire and Tyson merged.