The family-owned Leclerc Foods Inc. should employ 70 people within a year in its new location, the former Carta Mundi building in the Northeast Tennessee Business Park. Leclerc bought that property, which is in Kingsport and near Tri-Cities Regional Airport, along with seven adjoining acres for future expansion.
The operation is tentatively scheduled to begin in August, following some modifications to the building and installation of equipment.
Its current U.S. location is in Montgomery, Pa.
Officials of NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership, who earlier announced the plans but not the company name, said Thursday that Leclerc plans an investment of $35 million in “state of the art” equipment for the automated food processing operation.
“The completely automated facility will manufacture and distribute selected products for the U.S. market, employing up to 70 people over the next 12 months,” said Betty Martin, director of business development for NETWORKS, a joint venture of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City. “The initial production line will involve the making of granola bars for private label distribution. A second production line is planned for 2009, which will produce crackers.”
Martin said the expansion onto the additional seven acres “would completely fill the east section of the Northeast Tennessee Business Park.”
NETWORKS was first contacted by the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association in early December 2007 based on a referral from NETVRIDA’s Web site.
A visit to the region was then scheduled for mid-December with a customized itinerary for the international project team consisting of members from Northeast State Technical Community College, including President Bill Locke, Tommy Olterman of the Tennessee Valley Authority and NETWORKS staff.
“Leclerc selected Sullivan County after an extensive search of the Southeastern United States for a location,” NETWORKS Chief Executive Officer Richard Venable said. “While a suitable building was important, I believe our work force and available employee training program through the state of Tennessee’s Economic and Community Development played a major role in Leclerc’s decision to locate here.”
Leclerc Foods has been producing food products since Francois Leclerc founded the company in 1905.
Corporate offices are located in Quebec City, Canada, and the company also owns and operates four manufacturing facilities there.
The company manufactures cookies, granola bars, crackers and breakfast cereals for a multitude of customers. Their products are currently sold in more than 20 countries worldwide.
“We are thrilled with Leclerc Foods’ swift decision to open their latest manufacturing site in Sullivan County,” Venable said. “NETWORKS’ team has once again successfully proven their ability in dealing with international prospects. The relationships and collaboration of Dr. Locke, Tommy Olterman and NETWORKS staff with this prospect were intricate in securing Leclerc for the region.”
However, Venable said the visit with Locke, who pledged to provide work force training, may have cinched the deal.
“I think they’re here in large part because they visited Dr. Locke before they went home,” Venable said.
During Thursday’s annual Northeast State Foundation board meeting, Locke said the college will work closely with Leclerc and may send someone from the college to Canada to help get a specialized training program started.
Venable said Leclerc also was looking in West Tennessee.
For more information about Leclerc Foods go to the company’s Web site at www.leclerc.ca.