By Jeff Keeling
A new company started by industry veterans will manufacture healthy snack foods in Kingsport, bringing an estimated 273 jobs to the area, officials announced today.
Pure Foods will operate out of a building near the intersection of Interstates 26 and 81 in the Gateway Commerce Park, and invest $22 million in the operation’s initial phase. Sullivan County’s economic development agency, NETWORKS, built the 83,000-square-foot facility “on spec” to market it to prospective employers. The Kingsport Economic Development Board agreed Wednesday to purchase the $6.5 million building, with $1.2 million in state Economic and Community Development department grant money helping offset that cost.
NETWORKS CEO Clay Walker said KEDB will enter into a 15-year capitalized lease agreement with Pure Foods, and at the end of that time if not sooner, the company will take title to the building. Walker called it, “a good, low-risk deal for the community.”
In addition to the state grant, Pure Foods is paying $440,000 up front, and the combined amount of roughly $1.7 million will be escrowed until lease payments commence in two years. Walker said Pure Foods has the option of paying off the loan principle early. A news release from Tennessee ECD, which includes comments from state and local government officials, is available here.
The company plans to begin production by late summer or early fall, and Walker said its employment goal should be reached within four years.
Walker lauded the principals involved with Pure Foods. They’re located in western Canada, but Walker said their plan is to make Kingsport the company’s North American headquarters.
“These guys know what they’re doing. They’ve started a lot of companies, sold out to bigger companies, and at this point in their lives they said they wanted to do something that’s their passion,” Walker said. He added that company leaders, “were looking at three other states. It was a very competitive project.” NETWORKS considers food processing a target industry, and Sullivan County, which has a significant number of food processing jobs already, won out over communities in Indiana, Virginia and Alabama, Walker said.
Pure Foods has had several Kingsport-based jobs advertised on line since early this month. Those ads describe the company as using, “novel ingredients and processes to produce very nutrient dense healthy snacks,” and add that, “the company is building a new state of the art business with head offices in Kingsport … and is comprised of a team of experienced CPG and snack food professionals.”
The NETWORKS building was one attraction for Pure Foods, Walker said. Given the company’s focus on healthy snacks, a new building with no potential for contaminants from previous use, even for food production, was a plus. Walker also noted that the type of foods Pure will produce dovetail with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent announcement of the Healthy Tennessee Initiative.
“This will be a good fit particularly with the Healthy Kingsport Initiative, which is one of the pilot communities in Gov. Haslam’s’ initiative,” Walker said. “I expect the Chamber will want to partner with them on some things, and they’ve let us know that when they get some of their startup work done, they want to be very engaged and involved in community projects.”
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