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Kings Hawaiian Bakery hosts grand opening of Oakwood plant
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Lehua Kalili of the Magical Fires of Polynesia (Hula Halau O Lehua) sings a native song Thursday during the grand opening of King's Hawaiian in Oakwood. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

King's Hawaiian Bakery celebrated its grand opening in Polynesian style Thursday evening, complete with leis, a tiki bar and authentic music and food.

"I'm sure you're all interested in why we selected Oakwood to be our second home in the East?" said Mark Taira, CEO of the California-based company. "It's because you all have got that Southern aloha spirit."

The company began operating in the fall at the 120,000-square-foot plant, which is off H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway, between McEver Road and Thurmon Tanner Parkway, after a lengthy recruiting process that involved local and state officials and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

King's Hawaiian signed a job training agreement with Georgia Quick Start and Lanier Technical College. The Technical College System of Georgia sponsors Quick Start as a way qualified businesses can get customized workforce training.

Thursday's dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony drew government officials and other dignitaries, including Gov. Nathan Deal.

"We are just so pleased that ... this is going to be the East Coast distribution facility for a wonderful product," he said during a program that preceded the ribbon cutting.

"Not only are you being able to provide a great product, but the main thing we are also proud of is you're providing jobs for the citizens of Georgia."

The company hopes to have 150 employees by the end of the year and eventually, as it expands operations, some 250 to 260 workers, King's Hawaiian officials have said.

Kit Dunlap, CEO and president of the chamber, told company officials, "Thank you for the jobs, thank you for adding to our tax base, thank you for being part of our team and our community."

Taira said the Oakwood plant marks the fulfillment of a family dream.

He said his late father "always believed Hawaii was limited in its population and that's why he (eventually) moved to California," Taira said.

"Once in California, he said we will never be able to supply the whole country and one day we need to be on the East Coast. Well, today we're here.

"Oakwood was not in the plans when my father (died), but it's a major step to continuing his vision to one day have King's Hawaiian be global. I thank him every day for taking that bold step to move from Hawaii to the mainland and setting up the opportunity for us to be successful."

Deal also recognized the company's drive and determination.

"This is a storybook illustration of what good entrepreneurialship will produce - somebody who has a good idea, is willing to be bold, has a great recipe and then works hard to make it happen."

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