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Business climate not all bad. Here are some examples of progress
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Employees Stanley Mack, left, and Cody Hayden pack cases of bread while separated by protective barriers.

Hall County’s business climate may not be as robust as before the COVID-19 pandemic, but activity hasn’t ground to a halt, either.

One company that continues to expand in the area is King’s Hawaiian bakery in Oakwood, which is on track to add a fourth production line this summer.

“We’ll need to hire somewhere between 120 and 140 new employees, starting in July, and that (process) will probably go until the end of the year, maybe (early 2021), as we ramp up to capacity,” said Dan Raatjes, senior vice president and chief operations officer.

“We’re fortunate, we’re blessed to be selling a product that people are buying right now,” he said. “So, our sales are good, as you can imagine. The panic buying is kind of done in that the sales are settling back into kind of normal.”

And so, there’s a sort of cautious optimism.

“The reality is we’re going to be in a deep recession,” Raatjes added. “Come the holidays, when people buy King’s Hawaiian (breads), they’re still going to buy it, but it may be less than planned.”

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A production helper at King's Hawaiian sorts dough balls.

Another company that’s moving forward with opening is Fox Factory, which manufactures and designs ride dynamics products for bicycles and powered vehicles. The company, which is building a plant off Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, near Chicopee Woods Golf Course, has said it expects to create up to 800 jobs.

Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment, but Fox has a website advertising positions, including assembler, quality control inspector, quality engineer and materials supervisor.

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, who has kept tabs on Fox’s move to the area, said, “Full operations are planned for this fall, but they have some production that would start in the next few months.”

The company had planned a training plan signing ceremony with Georgia Quick Start and Lanier Technical College on March 17 — similar to one held with King’s Hawaiian in 2011 — but the event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Technical College System of Georgia sponsors Quick Start as a way qualified businesses can get free customized workforce training.

Also canceled was a March 18 chamber job fair that featured Fox and many other companies.

Kubota Manufacturing of America, which has plants off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall, also is hiring for several factory positions, including welding, assembly and material handling, Vice President Phil Sutton said.

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Packaging Helpers Hunter Mooney, left, and Williere Josue pack bread at King’s Hawaiian.

“These are all full-time positions, both experienced and entry level, with benefits,” he said. “In total, we can probably hire around 50-60 folks.”

Overall, “we are optimistic about the economy with orders increasing slightly through this,” Sutton said.

In all, the chamber lists 36 area companies that are hiring on a website it rolled out during the pandemic.

The lists are hyperlinked, so web users can go straight to job/career and employment pages on companies’ sites.

“We will continue to update that list of firms that are hiring as we go forward,” Evans has said.

Evans said he believes local companies are pushing forward despite tough economic conditions because “our community has a very diverse business base, and we’ve been very intentional in seeking diversification in the business community over the years.”

And many of the businesses have “very unique niches,” he said.

One of those, Evans noted, is Geveko Markings, which makes materials for road pavement markings. The Swedish company has opened a plant at 1883 New Harvest Road, in the Gainesville Business Park off Calvary Church Road.

With a move planned long before the pandemic, Geveko started operations in February and was met almost immediately with concerns.

“The challenge that’s facing all manufacturers initially is to protect our workers,” President Laura Clark said.

Moving forward, the pandemic has created “some unknowns in the market … that have made us a little more cautious,” she said.

“We sell primarily to government agencies … and in this last month, everybody, including government agencies, have been trying to figure out what this (pandemic) looks like and where it’s going,” Clark said.

“We’ve never closed, and we’re continuing to supply our customers — so, that’s all been good,” she said. “We haven’t had a downturn in our business, but … some of the new growth potential we haven’t been able to explore. It’s been sort of a pause.”

The company, which has about 50 employees, may pick up hiring by late summer, Clark said.

Interviewing people is a challenge, but also “we want to get our own routines down with social distancing and all that,” she said.