When King’s Hawaiian started bakery operations in Oakwood two years ago, Executive Vice President John Linehan predicted the plant eventually would have about 250 to 260 workers.
Turns out that was a low estimate.
Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday the California-based company plans to double production at its current plant and build a neighboring 120,000-square-foot facility over the next year, creating more than 400 jobs by 2016.
The company now employs about 160 people, so the total employment could hit 560, “and that’s a conservative estimate,” said Tim Evans, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development.
Here’s another large number: Officials expect that when the expansion is completed, King’s Hawaiian will have invested $100 million into its Hall County operations.
“With this significant investment, King’s Hawaiian is putting bread on the table in Hall County in more ways than one,” Deal said.
“In its relatively short time in Georgia, (the company) has proved a valuable member of our corporate community, and Monday’s expansion announcement shows the company’s faith in our business climate and the skilled local workforce. The growth and success of King’s Hawaiian will benefit Northeast Georgia for many years to come.”
“A majority of our employees (will be) working in Oakwood by about 2014 or 2015,” King’s Hawaiian CEO Mark Taira said.
“Our experience in Oakwood, Hall County and the state of Georgia has been extremely positive,” he added. “We have been able to hire terrific associates here and are impressed with local officials’ ability to partner with business and to create win-win experiences for Georgia citizens and companies.”
Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said that starting with the company’s initial visit to the South Hall city, relations with King’s Hawaiian have been “a pleasure.”
“They are a great community partner and we are excited about their decision to further invest in the Oakwood community with this expansion,” he said. “We look forward to working with them to assist and facilitate their expansion project.”
Kit Dunlap, the chamber’s CEO and president, said: “It is a source of local pride to see King’s Hawaiian in every major grocer and to know that’s a fantastic quality product that everyone loves and it’s baked in Hall County.
“This growth means job opportunities, and many Hall County businesses that support King’s Hawaiian will grow with this expansion.”
Pat Wilson, chief operating officer at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, also chimed in on the company’s announcement.
“It is not surprising that King’s Hawaiian would continue to expand its presence in Georgia,” Wilson said. “Existing companies thrive thanks to Georgia’s business-friendly atmosphere, outstanding workforce and superb logistics infrastructure.”
The Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority is set to meet at 8 a.m. Thursday to consider matters related to the expansion.
An agenda for the meeting shows items referring to $85 million in revenue bonds for plant equipment and $7 million “to finance a new industrial building to be leased” to King’s Hawaiian Bakery Southeast.
In addition to the increased production, “I think (the company) is going to bring some support personnel here, too, for the overall corporate structure,” authority Chairman Philip Wilheit said.
“It’s a real coup for Hall County. Oakwood, Hall County and Gainesville will all benefit from it.”
The family-owned company, founded in 1950 in Hilo, Hawaii, operates two other bakery plants and two restaurants in Southern California.
The company began operating in the fall of 2011 at its 120,000-square-foot plant 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 chamber.
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.
The company will continue to work with the Georgia Department of Labor during hiring and with Quick Start, officials said.