Food plant to add 500 jobs

Move benefits struggling area

Staff WriterJanuary 20, 2010 

Reser's Fine Foods, an Oregon company that makes potato salads and other prepared food, said Tuesday that it will expand its plant in Halifax County and add 500 jobs over the next five years.

The announcement is a major economic development win for northeastern North Carolina, an area that has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

"Just terrific," said J. Rives Manning Jr., vice chairman of the Halifax County Commissioners, who was at the Halifax County Airport along with Gov. Bev Perdue for the announcement.

Manning noted that the jobs amount to nearly 1 percent of Halifax's population of 59,000.

"They've added a big boost to our economy," he said.

The unemployment rate in November in Halifax County was 13.6 percent, compared with 10.7 percent for the entire state. Edgecombe County, which borders Halifax to the south, had the highest unemployment rate of any county in the state at 16.6 percent.

Reser's plans to invest $15million initially as it expands its food production facilities in the Halifax Industrial Center just west of Roanoke Rapids. The company will receive a $1 million grant from the state's One North Carolina fund.

In 2000, Reser's announced that it would build an 180,000 square foot plant in Halifax, investing $18 million and creating 320 jobs over three years.

The company employs about 400 people at its Halifax facility, Manning said.

"We are convinced North Carolina is the best strategic location, and we are excited to expand there," Al Reser, Reser's CEO, said in a statement.

Reser's is a family-owned company with headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., and facilities across the country. In addition to numerous kinds of potato salad, the company makes mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, dips, burritos and tortillas.

Emery Doughtie, mayor of Roanoke Rapids, said it has been a rough few years for his town and the surrounding area.

In addition to all the textile jobs that have been lost, Roanoke Rapids has been dealing with the fallout from the Randy Parton Theater debacle.

Roanoke Rapids borrowed more than $20 million several years ago to build the theater in an effort to spur economic development. The theater failed, and the city ended up taking control and renaming it Roanoke Rapids Theater.

"It will be an economic boost," Doughtie said of Reser's investment. "But I also think it will be a boost for the morale of the community."

david.bracken@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4548

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