Construction on the new the Morinaga candy factory near Mebane will begin in about two or three weeks, according to Steve Brantley, Orange County’s economic development director.
County leaders pulled together state and local resources to offer a $2.5 million economic incentives package to entice the top-selling Japanese confectionary to open its first American production facility in the Buckhorn Economic Development District.
Brantley said the pressure is on to follow through on those promises.
“We really do not have much time right now to think about being happy with our success because we have a lot to do,” Brantley said.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners offered Morinaga performance-based incentives, including a $1 million dollar grant to be paid out over the next five years. The grant money would represent three-quarters of the annual tax value of the $34 million dollar facility.
In April, Brantley said the County will begin utility work to deliver water and sewer services to the 21-acre property. The County is partnering with the state to cover the cost of extending water and sewer infrastructure, at an estimated cost of about $700,000. The state will pay 75 percent of that; the county will pay 25 percent.
In the next several weeks, the state Department of Transportation will begin building an access road to the property at a cost of about half a million dollars. Duke Energy and PSNC Energy will set up electric and gas lines as well.
The Orange County Branch of the state Division of Workforce Solutions will help Morinaga to staff the factory, which will create about 90 jobs. DurhamTechnical Community College will offer training to new workers at no charge.
The 100,000-square-foot factory, to be located off I-40 across from the Tanger Outlets, will manufacture the “Hi-Chew” fruit candy.
“By the end of this year, they hope to have a finished shell building and then spend the first six months of 2015 installing machinery, leading up to a June or July opening,” Brantley said.
Brantley said Morinaga leaders have indicated its operations in Orange County could be expanded multiple times over the next decade.
“This company is an illustration of what the county has said it has wanted to do over the past three or four years—which is to diversify the company into attracting non-residential business, both commercial and clean-light assembly operations [to the area],” he said.
Brantley said he believes that the new water and sewer infrastructure in the Buckhorne Economic Development District will attract more companies, both international and domestic, to the area.
“We are also trying to leverage our good news to new prospects that are aware of Orange County in terms of the Morinaga vote of confidence in us.”
Morinaga and Company was founded in 1899 in Tokyo. It produces a wide variety of confectioneries, including chocolates, cookies, and frozen desserts. Its products became available in the U.S. five years ago.