ORANGE COUNTY – County Commissioner Penny Rich says that at least three companies have expressed interest in relocating to Orange County since Morinaga, the top-selling Japanese candy company, announced plans to build a new $48 million dollar facility in Mebane.
Rich says it is too early to reveal details about the other companies who have taken notice of Orange County since Morinaga’s announcement, but she anticipates that the economic benefits of landing the internationally-known confectionery will be significant.
“We know that interest grows. When you do make such a huge advantage with a company in one area, other companies take notice,” Rich says.
Morinaga plans to build its first American manufacturing facility in Orange County’s Buckhorn Economic Development District that will employ at least 90 people, and pay an average salary of $38,000 a year.
County Manager Frank Clifton said in a recent board that if the Morinaga facility develops as planned it could become one of the top three taxpayers in the county.
The site is set to open mid-2015, but before construction can begin, the County Commissioners must fulfill the promised incentives package which includes installing water and sewer infrastructure. Rich says that when companies investigate an area, they want to make sure that those utilities are in place before making a deal.
“We know that we have foreign companies that were interested, but we also have domestic companies that were looking elsewhere because of the infrastructure that was not in place in Orange,” Rich says. “Now that the infrastructure is in place, they are taking a second look at our area. It really is exciting.”
Steve Brantley, Orange County’s Economic Development Director, led the effort to recruit the manufacturer. Brantley, who speaks Japanese, says the County beat out 18 sites in the state and other cities, such as Toronto, Canada, and Portland, Oregon.
“The Morinaga name is maybe not so well known by Americans as it would be to Japanese people or people from the Far East,” Brantley says. “They would know Morinaga like we would know Nestle or Hershey.”
Areas surrounding Orange County, like Alamance and Durham Counties, are already home to international companies. Brantley says bringing in a well-known corporate identity such as Morinaga will increase Orange County’s international presence. He says that there is also the possibility for a supplier company to move to the County as well.
“To be selected by an international firm and a very demanding Japanese firm is that if you are meeting their standards, it means that you are doing things right as a community and a county to attract business,” Brantley says.
Rich says she hopes local businesses will also benefit from the large-scale operation.
“If there’s uniforms involved, someone has to dry clean the uniforms,” Rich says. “If there’s advertising that has to happen locally, we would hope that they would use some local advertisers.”
Barry Jacobs, Chair of the Orange County Commissioners, says that bringing in Morinaga kept AKG of America, a German Company, from moving away from Mebane.