Photo Courtesy: Gourmet.com
CHAPEL HILL – A top-selling Japanese candy company announced plans Tuesday to build a new facility in Mebane, creating 90 new jobs and investing $48 million over the next three years.
Barry Jacobs, Chair of the Orange County Commissioners, says it is a sweet deal for the area in more ways than one.
“It will not only give a boost in becoming a large employer in Orange County, but we hope it will also help to stimulate other companies that would like to locate and identify with a quality, international company,” Jacobs says.
Morinaga and Company, the top-selling candy manufacturer in Japan, 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.
The company’s subsidiary operations in Mebane will consist of blending syrup, sugar, flavorings and other ingredients to produce soft candy, the Associated Press reports. The site, set to open mid-2015 in the Buckhorn Economic Development District, is the firm’s first American manufacturing enterprise.
The Orange County Economic Development Department, led by director Steve Brantley, fronted the efforts to recruit the manufacturer. To land the project, Orange County survived five rounds of visits from Morinaga consultants since the county first tried to attract the company in February 2012.
“We beat out 18 sites in approximately 12 North Carolina counties,” Brantley says “Other places outside the state that has been considered seriously included Toronto, Canada, Richmond, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and even Portland, Oregon.”
Brantley says Morinaga ultimately choose the Mebane site, near the Tanger Outlet mall, because of interstate visibility, a high confidence in the area’s work force, and the presence of UNC and Durham Tech, which will handle the critical training for the company.
Contingencies before the project can be finalized and construction begun include road accessibility, a supply of electricity and natural gas, and water and sewer extensions. Those improvements are planned to be funded by city, county and state performance grants.
Several other factors, Jacobs explains, played a key in making the project possible, including the rezoning of the district.
“Two years ago, the county made decisions to rezone it, and last year, the County Commissioners made decisions to rezone it, hoping that we would land a corporate client and it worked,” Jacobs says.
The 120,000 square-foot facility will offer health and retirement benefits for Morinaga employees. These jobs will be created over three years, offering competitive salaries, averaging more than $38,000 a year, according to a statement issued by Orange County.
“We’re trying in several different ways to use areas that we have previously zoned for economic development to provide more jobs and keep our non-residential tax base growing,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs also cites the use of the quarter-cent sales tax for funding economic development incentives.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to the voters who voted for the quarter-cent sales tax a few years back because half of that quarter-cent goes toward economic development,” Jacobs says. “The largest percentage goes to providing infrastructure, in this case water and sewer, for our economic development district.”
Jacobs says the company will be in the top ten employers for the County.