Three related businesses are planning to move into a former Central State Hospital building in Milledgeville, creating more than 300 jobs over five years.
Georgia’s Agribusiness Development Center, which has been created at the Parham Kitchen on the Central State campus, will include space for a private food service entity to operate, an agribusiness incubator and a distribution and warehousing co-operative, said Mike Couch, executive director of Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority. The authority has been working on the multimillion dollar deal for nearly three years, he said.
The 100,000-square-foot building will be renovated and brought up to current standards and will become a USDA certified food production facility, Couch said.
Maryland-based FoodService Partners will build a food production center, “where we are going to be doing food production for institutions, such as schools, hospitals and home delivery systems,” said Justin Bizzarro, director of procurement and risk management for FoodService.
The company currently has similar facilities in New York, Virginia, Texas and California that develop healthy full-menus and meals and send them all over the country to various institutions. It already provides 27 million meals at its existing facilities, including food for the Bostick Nursing Center in Milledgeville.
The new facility also will include Fresher than Ever Pasteurization LLC which will do high pressure pasteurization that uses enough pressure that “actually suspends any bacteria or contaminates growing in that food,” Bizzarro said. “So we are creating natural ways to preserve that food and promote sustainability ... without preservatives.”
And the third entity is Agricultural Logistics of Georgia LLC that will work with FoodServices handling third-party distribution for some of its clients., such as Georgia Grown and the Flavor of Georgia and entrepreneurs. It will provide the necessary logistics and infrastructure to support the center.
A variety of jobs will become available next year, including all kinds of kitchen workers, cooks, service aids, porters, supervisors, managers and engineers, Bizzarro said. FoodService and Central State are working with the local technical colleges and the state’s Quick Start program to train workers for the companies.
Three things in particular drew FoodService to the Milledgeville location.
One was the central location “and being able to move from there pretty much up and down the East coast,” he said. Also, agricultural products grown in Georgia and north Florida “pretty much year round” attracted the company.
And then, it was the timing.
“There is a facility available that needed to be renovated,” he said.
FoodService is not the only company migrating to the south.
“At our other locations.. we have a group of customers expanding into the Southeast, particularly in the Carolinas and Georgia and Tennessee, Alabama and Florida, … and we are bringing them with us,” Bizzarro said. “So, there will be quite a bit of national companies going in there — can’t give any names — but some are bringing their European productions actually into the U.S.”
A $10 million USDA Business & Industry loan to go toward the project was approved by the state a week ago, and because of the dollar amount it was sent to Washington, D.C., this week for final review and approval, Couch said. The Central State authority will own the building and lease it to FoodService as the primary tenant.
The USDA loan is expected to close about Nov. 1 “and I want to start construction in November,” which is expected to take nearly a year, he said. “Hopefully production will start by the end of next year.”