In early March 2016, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Golden State Foods Corp chairman, and CEO Mark Wetterau and other officials broke ground on the $63 million, 165,000 sq. ft. (15,329 sq m) facility, which will be located in the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park.
In Opelika, Ala., construction has begun on a meat processing plant that officials say will create jobs and bring new opportunities to the area. In early March 2016, Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, Golden State Foods Corp chairman and CEO Mark Wetterau and other officials broke ground on the $63 million, 165,000 sq. ft. (15,329 sq m) facility, which will be located in the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park.
“Golden State Foods is a growing company,” said Wayne Morgan, corporate vice-president and president, Protein Products Group. “In an effort to provide our customers the highest quality, food-safe products today and in the future, we felt now was the time to move forward with this new plant. It will give our liquids division room to grow in our Conyers, Ga., facility, and will give our protein division a modern meat processing facility with state-of-the-art equipment to meet the needs of our customers today and in the future.
“Our team has worked with our vendor partners to make sure that our new facility is incorporating best practices in the areas of food safety, worker safety and sustainability,” said Morgan. “We have given consideration to water, waste, energy and air in our equipment selection and building design. We have designed the facility for efficiency, and efficiency is one of the greatest tools to minimize waste across all categories.
“Golden State Foods works with a creed and values that serve as guiding principles for how we conduct business,” said Morgan. “One of the underlying tenets of these are the appreciation of people, including our associates, our customers and our community. We are excited to be able to be part of a new community and to bring value to the lives of many.”
Officials reportedly plan to have the facility up and running in the third quarter of 2017. Opelika was selected as the site for the plant based on its prime location along Interstate 85, its workforce and industry and its government's willingness to work together.
“This new facility is strategically located for our market. In addition, it will puts us in a position to provide our customers with high quality, food- safe products for many years to come. It will give us the opportunity to make improvements in efficiency, while giving us flexibility to accommodate changes in the future.
“We are excited to be a part of this project in a growing, vibrant community that is eager to partner with business,” Morgan said. “We believe that this facility will offer many great opportunities for the community, and it will be another great addition to the Golden State Foods family.”
Fuller told reporters, “Today is another great day in the city of Opelika, as we welcome our new partner, Golden State Foods. We know they will provide great opportunities for our citizens , and be a true community partner.”
Greg Canfield, secretary of commerce said, “Alabama's economic development team works hard every day to bring great companies like Golden State Foods to our state, and we'll continue to support this significant project in Opelika, to build on the partnership we've developed with the company.”
Wetterau said, “We are thrilled to become a part of the Opelika community, a wonderful city that shares our common values. We started as a small meat company in Los Angeles nearly seven decades ago, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate our 70th anniversary next year than with the opening of this meat plant in Opelika.
“We appreciate the solid partnership of the local civic leadership,” said Wetterau, “and we look forward to providing jobs and community engagement, which is a long-term investment for us.”
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Golden State Foods is one of the largest diversified suppliers to the quick service restaurant and retail industries. Established almost 70 years ago, it currently services more than 125,000 restaurants from 45 locations on five continents. With approximately 6,000 associates worldwide, Golden State Foods' core businesses include liquid products, meat products, produce, dairy and distribution services. It actually began business as a small meat company providing products to area eateries and hotels. Teaming with the McDonald's Corp. in the 1950s helped it become a key player in the food processing and distribution industries.
Work on the new facility recently began. According to Wendy Berger, president and CEO, WBS Equities LLC, “The Opelika Industrial Authority has roadway improvements, utility and wetlands mitigation work to do.”
Key tasks to be completed include grading the site, which involves rock blasting and erosion control measures, extending utilities to the site, preparing the foundation for the building pad, building temporary access roads to the site from the roadway and excavation for the detention pond.
The building will be constructed of tilt-up concrete and insulated metal panels. It will be built to USDA Standards for food safety.
Approximately 120,000 cu. yds. (91,746 cu m) of dirt/material will be moved on the project. Some of the main materials being used include tilt-up concrete, insulated metal panels, steel and concrete. The building will be LEED certified, meaning a large portion of the materials will be recycled or made from rapidly renewable materials.
“There are very significant grade changes across the site, so the early work is focused on rock blasting and grading,” said Berger. “No tear down was required. The property is a greenfield site, which is part of the Opelika Industrial Authority's Northeast Business Park in Lee County.
“The most critical elements of these types projects are related to floor flatness of poured concrete floors. The floors must be poured correctly, in order to properly hold up to a large amount of forklift traffic over many years.
“We will be working with Alabama Power to bring their service into the industrial park for the first time, and then onto our site. All utilities need to be brought from the roadway to the building site.”
Brandon Clifton, general manager, Hudmon Construction Company Inc. said, “We are in the very early stages of grading right now, along with stripping topsoil. Hudmon Construction is responsible for grading, storm drainage piping, sanitary sewer, domestic and fire water lines and erosion control.”
Already, weather has had a negative impact on construction.
“This particular soil in central Alabama is not very moisture resistant, meaning that the slightest little bit of rain adds to the moisture percentage when trying to achieve the required compaction for particular areas of the job site. One main challenge is reaching the optimal moisture for this particular dirt in between rains. We are just artists trying to paint that perfect masterpiece, and hoping we shook all the water out of our brushes, so we don't have to start over if the paint starts to run,” Clifton said.
Equipment being used on the project includes a D8 dozer, a D6 dozer, two pieces of compaction equipment, two 500 hp tractors with 25 cu. yd. (19 cu m) pull behind pans and a number of excavators. Clifton said the grading aspect will likely be the most time-consuming part of his crew's work, with a significant amount of dirt to move on the project to achieve final grade.
Hoping to complete all work early next year, Clifton said, “We are just glad to be a part of team Clayco, the general contractor. We also thank Golden State Foods for choosing Opelika, Alabama, to be its home.”
Lori Huguley, director of the Economic Development Department of the city of Opelika, said, “Our office has been working on this project since 2013. We were involved in a multi-state search, and were glad to win this project for the City of Opelika. Golden State Foods plans to invest over $60 million in building and equipment for this new meat processing plant, and to hire 173 associates.”
Huguley said it was important to secure a plant of this nature, to demonstrate Opelika's ability to accommodate big companies wanting to build in Alabama.
“The selection of Opelika as the site for the new plant is a testament to the fact that Opelika is open for business, and works with companies to provide a location and community that is supportive of their project, and has a desire for their success.”
She also stated the construction could pave the way for future development in the region.
“The Northeast Opelika Industrial Park is a 2,200-acre industrial park that has all utility infrastructure in place. The location along Interstate 85 and with an interstate exit that is specifically designed for truck traffic will continue to aid in our ability to attract manufacturing and distribution facilities to our area,” said Huguley.
“We have had very positive feedback regarding bringing another diverse industry to the area. Anytime you can bring additional opportunities and diversify your industrial base, I believe you will have excitement within the community. Thanks to our leadership, Mayor Fuller, the Opelika City Council and the Opelika Industrial Development Authority, we are very fortunate to lead the city's efforts to recruit and retain business and industry to our area.”
According to Huguley Opelika is a very business-friendly community.
“The forethought and forward planning that has been put into preparing the sites and infrastructure will continue to benefit our community as we attract future business and industry to Opelika.”
Barbara Patton, Opelika chamber of commerce president, said seeing the building come out of the ground will be rewarding for the entire community.
“Golden State Foods brings a new industry sector to the city of Opelika and diversifies our industrial base. This is a big positive for a city that has seen the textile mills close down here, and all around us. It has been shown that the food processing industry in the U.S. produces a positive economic impact, and we are looking forward to being the recipient of that here.
“Mayor Fuller and the economic development department of the city, in partnership with the state of Alabama, did an outstanding job in recruiting this industry here,” Patton said.“Opelika is fortunate to be situated along the I-85 corridor between Montgomery and Atlanta, with Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport just down the road. We are also blessed to have Southern Union Community College here and Auburn University next door, and AIDT provides great training for the industrial manufacturing workforce.”
The city of Opelika, through its Opelika Industrial Development Authority, prepared and positioned itself early on to welcome new industries through the creation of its Fox Run Business Park and the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park. Opelika is also the first gig city in the state of Alabama, which is a plus for industries needing the internet speed and capacity.
“So many factors go into the fact that Opelika and the area are growing,” said Patton. “Auburn-Opelika MSA was ranked 10th for Best Performing Small Cities by Milken Institute in 2014 and 2015, which uses job creation, wage gains and technology trends to measure this growth. In addition, Southern Business and Development Magazine named the City of Opelika one of the Ten Smoking Hot Economies in the South in 2015.”
Opelika is located in north-central Lee County, and is bordered by Auburn to the west. Opelika lies in the southern reaches of the Piedmont Plateau, and straddles the divide between the Tallapoosa and the Chattahoochee river watersheds.