Work is moving along in the expansion of the King’s Hawaiian plant in Oakwood, an effort that could eventually double employment there.
The bakery off M. Stringer Road and H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway began operating in 2011 with one production line in a 120,000-square-foot building.
A second line began operating in the building this spring, with King’s Hawaiian now up to 300 workers, said John Linehan, the California-based company’s executive vice president.
Construction of a second 120,000-square-foot building could wrap up this fall. The new building will feature two lines, with one operating initially.
“Some day, when we have four lines running (in Oakwood) and some more office space, we’ll probably have about 600 people there,” Linehan said. “That’s three years down the road, something like that.”
Officials have said they expect that when the expansion is completed, King’s Hawaiian will have invested $100 million into its Hall County operation, which serves as King’s Hawaiian’s main supplier for customers east of the Mississippi River.
“Probably, by the first quarter of 2015, we’ll have the majority of our employees working in Georgia, not California. We did not expect that.”
Job numbers and pace of growth also have exceeded expectations.
“We expected to put the second line in 2016 or so, but the business grew faster than we expected,” Linehan said.
He said he believes the growth is based on a couple of factors.
“More households are buying our product more frequently,” Linehan said.
Also, he believes the company has tapped into a “great labor force.”
“We’ve had great relationships with the state, Hall County and Oakwood,” Linehan said.
He noted Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs brought home-grown tomatoes to the plant in the spring.
“Where else in the world does that happen?” he said.
King’s Hawaiian CEO Mark Taira has said the company has been “impressed with local officials’ ability to partner with business and create win-win experiences for Georgia citizens and companies.”
The family-owned company, founded in 1950 in Hilo, Hawaii, operates manufacturing plants and two restaurants in California.
After it arrived in Oakwood, King’s Hawaiian signed a job training agreement with Georgia Quick Start and Lanier Technical College in Oakwood.
The Technical College System of Georgia sponsors Quick Start as a way qualified businesses can get customized workforce training.
Linehan lauded the program, which “does a really good job helping companies that come to Georgia be successful.”