One of Hall County’s most aromatic industries is celebrating 40 years in Hall County.
Chewing gum manufacturer Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. opened Nov. 30, 1971, but it got a jump on its birthday this past weekend by treating employees to a day of food, fun, games and a car show at the plant off Atlanta Highway and Interstate 985.
The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors plans to recognize the plant — the world’s largest chewing gum operation and Hall’s sixth largest industry — in October.
“Wrigley has done a great job of building a very successful business in Hall County, and I really enjoy the partnership that Wrigley has with the residents and the larger community,” plant manager Jim Fitzgerald said.
Wrigley began in 1971 with 100 employees and production consisted of Juicy Fruit, Spearmint and Doublemint. The company now employs 785 and produces 33 flavors of stick gum, among other products. The 550,000-square-foot plant sits on 200 acres.
“There’s been so much growth over the last five years that I’m very optimistic about the future,” said Fitzgerald, who has been with Wrigley as the plant manager for five years.
The plant held an outdoors celebration Saturday, drawing some 970 people, including employees and their families and retirees. Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller also attended.
Employee Janice Bryans was presented with an award for her 40 years of service.
She began working at the plant Dec. 2, 1971, following her father into employment there. He was chief of general services.
“In 1971, it was the place you would want to work at,” said Bryans, who started as a sheeting machine worker.
Now 68, she said retirement has crossed her mind, but she keeps brushing it away.
“It’s like a family here,” Bryans said. “We work together and we learn together. It’s just a very peaceful and great environment to work in.”
Times haven’t always been sweet for the company.
Two years ago, Wrigley laid off 5 percent of its North American manufacturing and logistics work force, including employees at its Flowery Branch plant.
Other historic moments for the company:
In 2006, Wrigley announced a $48 million expansion of the factory, creating 200 new jobs.
Wrigley announced in September 2008 that its stockholders had overwhelmingly approved the adoption of a merger agreement with Mars Inc.
As for the future, “we’re always looking at opportunities for growth, and the great news is we have plenty of land to expand on,” Fitzgerald said. “But we also still have some room for expansion in our processing and packaging capability.”