Chapel Hill News

Orange County OKs Morinaga candy maker incentives

Masao Hoshino’s mango Hi-Chew. Hi-Chew is a fruit-flavored, chewable candy similar in many ways to Starburst.
Masao Hoshino’s mango Hi-Chew. Hi-Chew is a fruit-flavored, chewable candy similar in many ways to Starburst. COURTESY OF MASAO HOSHINO

The Orange County Board of Commissioners signed off on an incentives package Tuesday for the Japanese candy company Morinaga.

The county courted Morinaga for roughly 18 months, working with Mebane, Duke Energy, PSNC Energy and state agencies to craft the deal.

If Morinaga meets job creation and investment goals, it could receive a payment over five years of up to $1.5 million from Orange County and $720,000 from Mebane. The package also includes utilities infrastructure, a road extension and worker training from Durham Tech’s Orange County campus.

Masao Hoshino, Morinaga America’s chief executive officer, said the company’s first U.S. factory will make Hi-Chew – a chewable, fruit candy similar to Starburst. U.S. sales have grown since 2008, Hoshino has said.

Construction on the 98,000-square-foot factory, fronting Interstates 85-40 opposite the Tanger Outlets in Mebane, could start in March and production by mid-2015.

“We look forward to working with 90 people or more and delivering Hi-Chew to people in the United States. In the future, we will go to South America and Europe, from here in Orange County,” Hoshino said. “Finally, we sincerely hope that we will be accepted and recognized as citizens and contributors to the community for many years to come.”

Commissioner Penny Rich and Chairman Barry Jacobs pointed out the deal, in part, is a benefit of the public’s 2011 investment in a quarter-cent sales tax for economic development. The company will be the first to build in the county’s Buckhorn Economic Development District.

“We have just started as a county to embark on the course of providing incentives to companies that either locate here or stay here,” Jacobs said. “This has been a very collaborative process, and we feel this will be a fruitful process for everyone concerned.”

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