Raleigh-based Aseptia plans to dramatically expand its food processing and packaging plant in Montgomery County, a move that will generate 505 new jobs in an area of the state that has been plagued by high unemployment.
Aseptia, a private company that operates as Wright Foods, uses technology invented by food scientists at N.C. State University to produce packaged foods including fruit sauces, vegetables and beverages. Its method, known as aseptic processing, involves rapidly heating and cooling food to destroy bacteria that causes it to spoil.
Founded in 2006, Aseptia opened its Troy plant in August. It has since expanded the plant from 37,000 to 60,000 square feet and hired more than 80 people.
The companys latest expansion plan will cost about $53 million and take five years to complete. Michael Drozd, president and CEO of Wright Foods, said the expansion will add 120,000 square feet to the Troy facility, about 100 miles southwest of Raleigh, and nearly double its production capacity.
Well be expanding our product lines, as well as our customer base, Drozd said.
Aseptia is eligible to receive a $1.5 million One North Carolina grant if it meets hiring and investment milestones. The state grant requires a local match. In 2011, the company received a $150,000 One North Carolina grant that was contingent on Aseptia investing $10 million in its facility and creating 75 jobs. Aseptia surpassed those goals and received the money, which will help fund the expansion. The company has raised about $20 million from investors previously, Drozd said.
Aseptia is already hiring for positions involved in the production process, which is good news in a county where the unemployment rate topped 10 percent in May.
We desperately need people working, and the expansion will make a huge difference, said Ashley Cagle, director of the Economic Development Corp. in Montgomery County.
Salaries will vary by position, but the average annual wage for the new jobs will be $29,687, plus benefits. The Montgomery County average is $30,629.
Aseptia has developed a partnership with several Montgomery County community colleges, which helped screen and train employees when the company first began hiring in 2012. Drozd said the company will continue the partnership as it looks to fill the 505 new positions.
With our additional expansion, well be relying heavily on training, he said. Were a very specialized manufacturer, and its great to have a partner to help with that training.
Cagle said she expects Aseptias expansion to generate a lot of interest from unemployed people across the county.
Any time that we have a new business come in, there is some sort of frenzy from people who need jobs, she said. When Wright first announced that they were hiring, they had a job fair at the community college, and they were expecting about 100 people. More than 500 people showed up. You could see there was a definitely a need.