Morinaga Celebrates Hi-Chew Factory Opening

You may have seen the Japanese candy Hi-Chew on the shelves of stores like Target, CostCo and Walmart. It’s chewy, comes in a variety of fruit flavors and is now being made in North Carolina.

The makers of Hi-Chew, a Japanese company called Morinaga America Foods Incorporated, opened their first American production facility in Mebane, North Carolina.

The building’s grand opening was celebrated Thursday by the company’s top executives, local and state officials and by Governor Pat McCrory, who is a personal fan of the treat.

Governor Pat McCrory speaking at Morinaga Grand Opening. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Governor Pat McCrory speaking at Morinaga Grand Opening. Photo via Blake Hodge.

“I took every color and I’ve been eating it ever since. And now to have it made in North Carolina will mean a lot to our country and to our state.”

Beyond the governor’s fondness for the sweet, he said the facility is the beginning of what he hopes to be a long relationship with Morinaga.

“When this great management team came to visit me, I knew we had something special. I knew we had to develop this great partnership and friendship that would last generations.”

The grand opening was held outside the new 120,000 square foot Hi-Chew factory in Mebane. During the ceremony, Morinaga’s president and CEO, Toshiaki Fukunaga, spoke about his experience working in North Carolina.

“When I began working here, I expected that North Carolina, Orange County and Mebane would be a wonderful environment, easy access and excellent workforce. After working here for two years, my expectations were surpassed and I now know that NC means ‘nothing compares.’”

Sake Barrel at Morinaga Grand Opening. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Sake Barrel at Morinaga Grand Opening. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Morinaga’s $40 million investment has helped to employ over 80 people, and according to Mebane Mayor Glendel Stephenson, the company plans to continue expanding.

“They have plans to double this plant within the next few years. That’s going to double employment.”

Increased employment opportunity is a focus for Steve Brantley, the director of Orange County Economic Development.

“Let’s keep our focus on the ultimate benefactors of this kind of success which are these people that get jobs here.”

The event ended with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a traditional Japanese breaking of the sake barrel. The barrel was filled with Hi-Chew candy that Governor McCrory tossed into the crowd.

The factory is currently in production and is distributing Hi-Chew candies throughout North Carolina and the U.S.

Silver Alert For Mebane Man, 34

The NC Center for Missing Persons has issued a Silver Alert for a missing Mebane man, 34-year-old Joseph Allen Horner.

Horner was last seen at 709 Summit Ridge Road in Mebane, heading toward East Stagecoach Road behind the Food Lion. He is white, 5’11” and 188 pounds with brown eyes, short brown hair, tattoos on his legs and arms, last seen wearing a black short-sleeve shirt, black shorts, and a black hat with a red “C.”

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Joseph Allen Horner, contact T.M. Crowder at the Mebane Police Department, (919) 563-9031.

1 killed, others hurt in pair of I-85 wrecks

One person has died and at least seven other people were hurt in a pair of wrecks on Interstate 85 near Mebane.

Mebane Mayor Glendel Stephenson told WXII-TV that the first wreck happened early Wednesday when the fire chief and an engine were at the scene of a wreck when a woman hit the fire chief’s vehicle.

The woman died in the crash. Her name has not been released.

Fire Chief Bob Lewis was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol responded to that wreck and a trooper’s SUV was hit by a bus carrying about 40 passengers.

The trooper was also taken to the hospital.

One Dead After Train Hits Van In Downtown Mebane

Police in Mebane say a woman was killed when her van was hit by an Amtrak passenger train.

A statement from police say the Piedmont passenger train was traveling west when it hit the van between the crossing arms at a railroad crossing around 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The woman was identified as 80-year-old Doris Miles Pinnix of Burlington. Authorities say she was the only one in the van.

The Times-News of Burlington reports that witnesses say the van was stuck between the guardrails at the crossing as the train approached, and that two men went to the vehicle to tell the woman to get out, but she didn’t move.

No one aboard the train was hurt.

“Legacy Care” Pet Facility Opens In Mebane

Paws4Ever in Mebane is launching a program called “Legacy Care,” helping pet owners make sure their pets will be cared for when they’re no longer able to care for them.

Often when pet owners die or become ill or disabled – or even simply when they age – they become unable to take care of their pets; and in the absence of a plan, those pets often wind up abandoned or in shelters. Legacy Care, says Paws4Ever executive director Laura Griest, is a better alternative – and it’s also a good backup, in case you do have a plan in place that falls through.

Legacy Care is a home-based program: Paws4Ever has constructed a 2000-square-foot home for pets on its facility in Mebane, large enough to fit eight animals, with a full-time caregiver on site. The animals are cared for there while staff members search for a permanent adoptive home for them.

There’s no other program like it in the Southeast, Griest says – and very few like it anywhere in the country.

Griest joined WCHL’s Aaron Keck on “Aaron in the Afternoon” this week to discuss Legacy Care.

Paws4Ever is holding an open house on Saturday from 2-4 pm to show off the newly-built Legacy Care facility. It’s located at 6311 Nicks Road in Mebane. For more information on the facility, visit

Morinaga Factory To Break Ground Thursday

Governor Pat McCrory, the Orange County Commissioners, and the City of Mebane, will be in attendance of the breaking ground of 120,000 sq. ft. Morinaga America Foods facility Thursday in Mebane.

Morinaga owns candy and confectionary production facilities throughout Japan, China, and Taiwan, with sales offices around the world; it considered Asia’s answer to Hershey’s, Mars, or Nestle. This establishment represents Morinaga’s first production facility outside of Asia. The ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. at the site on Wilson Road.

The speakers attending the event include Governor Pat McCrory; Chairman Gota Morinaga; President of Morinaga America Foods, Inc., Toshiaki Fukunaga; Board of County Commissioners Chair, Barry Jacobs; City of Mebane Mayor, Glendel Stephenson; and Consul General of Japan in Atlanta, Kazuo Sunaga.

The Orange County Director of Public Affairs, Carla Banks, elaborates on why Mebane was chosen as the location for Morinaga.

“When they decided they were going to embark on setting up a facility in the United States, they did visit other communities,” says Banks. “They ultimately ended up selecting Orange County because of the quality of life.”

Banks also speaks on the impact that the Morinaga facility will have for Mebane and Orange County as a whole.

“From an employment standpoint, the start-up of their American facility in Mebane will bring 90 jobs over the next three years,” says Banks. “I think the framework of Mebane is going to start changing as we are bringing in infrastructure for water and sewer, and paving the foundation for future economic development projects.”

Parking, Water, Beer, Business, And Education!

ORANGE COUNTY – Chapel Hill is adding a new parking lot downtown: on Monday, February 3, the town is opening the Courtyard parking lot, located at 115 South Roberson Street near the west end of Franklin. Town staff say there will be 53 spaces available at the new lot. (There are about 1200 available parking spaces in all in downtown Chapel Hill.)


Earth Policy Institute founder and president Lester Brown will be on campus Tuesday, February 4, lecturing on the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling water.

The lecture is entitled “Peak Water: What Happens to Our Food Supply When the Wells Go Dry?” It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center. It’s free and open to the public.


Starting in April, ARCA will begin assembling CM18 cash recyclers at its manufacturing facility in Mebane, transfering operations from Italy. The move will make the Mebane facility the only one in the U.S. to produce cash recyclers, used by banks and credit unions to speed its balancing and inventory functions.


Twelve Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School teachers have recently earned National Board Certification: Melissa Nicholson-Clark and Samantha Howard of Morris Grove Elementary; Susan Azzu, Agnes Bernasconi, and Ashley Laver of Rashkis Elementary; Christine Cohn of Estes Hills Elementary; Jennifer Pedersen of Northside Elementary; Lisa Myles of McDougle Elementary; Miles Chappell of Phillips Middle; Beth Kinney of McDougle Middle; Holly Loranger of Chapel Hill High; and Jenny Marie Smith of East Chapel Hill High. Congratulations to all twelve!

North Carolina leads the nation in the number of teachers certified by the National Board.

Another recognition for UNC: the Princeton Review has ranked UNC-Chapel Hill as the number-one public university in the nation on its 2014 list of America’s “Best Value Colleges.”

UNC has long been recognized as a national leader in preserving affordability and accessibility while simultaneously providing a high-quality education and maintaining high graduation rates.

NC State also made the Princeton Review’s list, as the number-four public university in the nation. Williams College in Massachusetts ranked first among private universities.


Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are participating in North Carolina’s first official pilot test with school buses filled with propane autogas, an alternative fuel designed to lower gas costs while also reducing toxic emissions.

The North Carolina Propane Gas Association is promoting the new technology in conjunction with Triangle Clean Cities Coalition and Triangle Air Awareness. They say propane autogas can reduce emissions by 80 percent compared to diesel fuel.

Other districts participating in the pilot program include Union, Brunswick, and Nash-Rocky Mount.


Carolina Brewery is celebrating its 19th birthday with events beginning on Wednesday, February 5 and running through Saturday the 8th–including the debut of a new “Anniversary Ale” and a pint glass giveaway on Friday the 7th.

Visit for a full schedule of events.

Two Orange County Pedestrians Killed in Separate Accidents

ORANGE COUNTY-  Two pedestrians have died this week in separate accidents in Orange County.

A man was struck and killed by a car just before 6:30 Tuesday evening as he walked along Bethel Hickory Grove Church Road five miles west of Carrboro.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman driving the car that hit him was reportedly uninjured. The State Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.

This marks the second pedestrian death in Orange County in three days.

On Sunday morning shortly after 9 o’clock, a man walking along railroad tracks on Buckhorn Road east of Mebane was hit and killed by an Amtrak passenger train. The Carolinian was carrying 118 passengers from Charlotte to New York. No other injuries were reported.

Authorities have not released the name of either victim.

OC Leaders Say Benefits Of Landing Morinaga Will Be “Significant”

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.