Employment could soon be on the rise in Surry County now that Harvest Time Bread Company has announced plans to expand its Mount Airy facility, creating 38 new jobs.
The “special announcement” was made yesterday morning at the bread company’s facility at Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park. Dale Carroll, deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, made the announcement that Harvest Time Bread would be retaining its 86 current jobs and creating 38 more in the future.
The company has purchased the facility that it had been leasing from the Small Business Administration. The company now plans to expand the facility within the next three years. Carroll said Harvest Time Bread said the project will be a $4.5 million capital investment in the county.
Local and state governments helped make the expansion possible. Gov. Beverly Perdue has committed a $100,00 grant from the One North Carolina Fund to the company. County and city officials have already approved incentive packages of more than $500,000 for the project, which was formerly known as “Project Dough.”
Rich Paolino, president and chief executive officer of Harvest Time Bread, said that the new jobs would become available gradually over the next three years. A few jobs could become open within a few weeks. He also said the creation of an additional facility beside the existing structure would take place within three years. The timing will depend on the market demand for the company’s products.
Present at the announcement were local and state officials, community leaders, Economic Development Partnership (EDP) partners and employees, and executives and employees of the bread company. Sandy Hallman, chair of Surry County EDP, welcomed everyone to the event, then Todd Tucker, EDP president, introduced Carroll.
Before making the announcement, Carroll said, “It’s a great day in Mount Airy and Surry County.” At the end of his speech, Carroll presented the Harvest Time Bread executives with a special plate with the state’s motto engraved on it.
Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran next gave remarks. She congratulated the city on its selection as the site for the business expansion.
“Just like Harvest Time Bread, we rose to the top ... Harvest Time Bread has a great product, and we have a great workforce,” said Cochran.
She talked about the city’s continued focus on job creation before presenting the Harvest Time Bread leaders with a key to the city. Paul Johnson, chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, next addressed the crowd.
“This is a positive event for Mount Airy and Surry County and the 75,000 citizens that live here,” said Johnson.
When Paolino spoke next, he addressed old rumors that the company would be moving.
“Yes indeed we did look at other alternatives ... But (local groups and governments) made it extremely easy for us to make the decision to stay here,” said Paolino.
The company president later explained that every time the company started leaning toward relocating in another county or state, the EDP kept pulling the company back.
Ben Weller, chief financial officer for the company, said, “We were getting offers from other economic development groups ... The willingness of the local community to make that process work for us and meet those needs was higher than anyone else.”
He said the company had been considering relocation because they needed more property to expand their facility. The purchase from the Small Business Association made that possible.
“It gives us an expandable platform to grow our business,” Paolino said.
Paolino said Surry County also had the edge in retaining the business because there was already a skilled workforce here and the company wouldn’t have to pack up and start over.
After the announcement and remarks, the nearly 200 attendees ate refreshments provided by Harvest Time Bread. The room was abuzz with comments about the announcement.
Several people who work at the manufacturing facility were present for the announcement. They said rumors had been flying around for several weeks and that they had no clue what to expect at the event. Jason Valentine said he had heard that the company was going out of business. James Jones had heard that the facility was going to be sold.
Employee George Hickman said, “It made me feel good knowing I have a job now.”
Valentine said, “It’s good. Jobs are hard to find.”
“Especially with the unemployment rate the way it is right now,” Jones added.
Weller said the company had to keep the information quiet until all negotiations with state and local authorities were completed.
Surry County Commissioner Bill Hamlin said after the announcement, “It’s great for the county. I’d like to see this happen every week.”
“It’s continued a number of successes we’ve had here in Mount Airy,” said Chris Knopf, assistant county manager in charge of economic development and tourism.
Tucker said, “It’s always great to share great news.”
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, officials hope citizens will be encouraged.
Johnson said, “I hope the citizens will say, ‘Where can I file an application.’”
Hamlin said, “I’m hoping that everybody will take it as a positive ... maybe feel a little better about things. We are looking at things daily to get new jobs here.”
Tucker said not to expect any new economic development announcements within the next month, but a few projects are in the works.
“Things are improving,” Tucker remarked.
Harvest Time Bread Company operates two bread manufacturing facilities, one in New Jersey and the one in Mount Airy. The company took over the present facility in Mount Airy around two years ago. It has 70,000 square feet, and Paolino said the company is utilizing around 40,000 square feet at this time. The company specializes in making par-baked and fully baked breads and rolls.
Tucker said the new jobs will come available through the Employment Security Commission. He re-emphasized that they would open up gradually over the next few years, but he said a few could be advertised soon. Tucker suggested visiting the ESC Web site, www.ncesc.com, or visiting the JobLink center in Mount Airy for more information.
Contact Meghann Evans at email@example.com or 719-1952.