Snack company could bring 310 jobs to Versailles
An Indiana-based snack food maker's plans to build a "state of the art" manufacturing facility in Versailles employing 310 workers dominated discussion at the Friday, Feb. 26, meeting of the Woodford Economic Development Authority (EDA). More Than A Bakery plans to spend $57 million to build a 250,000 to 300,000 square-foot facility on 100-plus acres of the old Camco property on Big Sink Road, which the Versailles City Council recently announced its intent to annex. The workers, who the company said will make an average of $22-per-hour, will make cookies, crackers, crumbs and other products for customers "ranging from Fortune 100 companies to smaller, regional businesses." EDA Chairman John Soper noted the decision wasn't a done deal, as it must be approved by the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Planning Commission, but expressed no concerns about the outcome. Soper said the total of $70 million invested by More Than A Bakery and AHK (which held a groundbreaking ceremony at Midway Station two weeks ago) will send $350,000 "straight to our school system." Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, a former member of the planning commission, said More Than A Bakery will provide the biggest influx of new jobs in Versailles in at least two decades. "KCTCS (The Kentucky Community and Technical College System headquarters) was the last three-figure job addition to come to Versailles," said Traugott. "What's even more impressive than the raw job impact is the diversity it brings to the community, with auto parts (AHK), light bulbs (OSRAM Sylvania) and a sign company (Ruggles Sign)." Construction on the More Than A Bakery facility is scheduled to begin this summer, with manufacturing likely to get underway by the end of 2017. The company will receive nearly $8 million in performance-based state tax incentives and is eligible to receive recruitment, reduced-cost job training and other benefits from the Kentucky Skills Network. In a news release from the company, a site consultant said the decision to locate in Versailles was culmination of a three-year search process. "Ultimately, the City of Versailles was chosen based on several key factors, including the desirability of the local Versailles community and surrounding Lexington region; available land and proximity to raw materials and transportation needs, as well as an attractive economic development incentive package and other assistance from the state of Kentucky," said Brandon Talbert of The Austin Company. More Than A Bakery is affiliated with Richmond Baking, which described itself as the oldest family owned cookie and cracker bakery in the United States. Richmond Baking also has facilities in Richmond, Ind., and Alma, Ga., where capacity constraints could limit the company's continued growth. "The company has needed this kind of additional space for some time now," said Bill Quigg, the president of Richmond Baking. "We know that the real work on our new facility begins now, and we look forward to collaborating with all of our local partners and authorities in Versailles, Woodford County and Kentucky to create a meaningful and successful situation for years to come." Soper said he had lunch in Versailles in early February with Quigg and his wife, Felicia. "The whole conversation was not, 'What we're going to do for them.' That was never asked. Instead, he asked me, 'How can my employees get involved in the community? That's very important to us. How can we be of service?' That was the most refreshing conversation I've had in years," Soper said. Versailles City Council Member Ann Miller and Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle praised Soper and company for their hard work to bring More Than A Bakery to Versailles. "You've thanked quite a few people, but I thank you as chairman," Coyle said to Soper. "When you're driving the boat, a lot of these accomplishments have to do with your leadership ." Industrial land Soper said if the Camco property gets approved (for use by More Than A Bakery), there would be no industrial-zoned land left inside the Versailles Urban Service Boundary. Planning Commission GIS (geographic information system) expert Kenneth Johns conducted a PowerPoint presentation showing the layout of the present urban service area. "Once this project on Big Sink gets approved, then we're out of land ." Soper said. "I know there's been a lot of talk about the 1,377 acres available - I'm sure I'm going to get some criticism for disagreeing with that - and so I want to go through these maps today ." Soper, Traugott and other pro-growth advocates have frequently and publicly disagreed with their opponents about such definitions and the related question of whether to expand the Versailles Urban Service Boundary. Crowley to leave EDA Some companies are leaving Woodford County, including one owned by EDA member Ed Crowley. Crowley said he was moving his Midway company, The Photizo Group, to Lexington, and would have to resign his position on the EDA. "We'll still be living in the county so I want to support what the EDA's doing, I believe in it, and I want to help you guys out whenever I can," Crowley said. Soper said he was disappointed to learn Crowley was leaving, but praised his work for the EDA.