Monogram expanding

December 11, 2014

A skilled workforce and Virginia’s incentive package were the keys to Monogram Food Solutions’ decision to expand its Henry County operation, officials said Wednesday as they announced that Monogram will create 200 jobs here. 

The area also is in the running for a new distribution center the company is planning, according to Karl Schledwitz, Monogram’s chairman and CEO 

Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Henry County on Wednesday to announce that the Memphis-based manufacturer of processed meats will invest $36.475 million to expand its meat snacks production operation in the Patriot Centre Industrial Park and create 200 jobs. Construction of a 58,000-square-foot addition is set to begin today and should be complete by the spring, Schledwitz said. 

He said he anticipates a June or July opening. He invited the governor to return for that event, and McAuliffe — who ate and praised bacon jerky provided by Monogram during the announcement — said he would be back.

New employees are to be hired and trained a month or so before the expansion is complete. Schledwitz said the company will hold job fairs to fill the new posts. 

The new jobs will pay an average of $12 per hour “plus a very generous benefit package,” he said.

Schledwitz estimated that 150 to 175 people will be hired “right out of the chute” to work in the new addition, with jobs to run the gamut from manufacturing to positions in quality and safety. 

Schledwitz praised the “good, hard-working people” in Monogram’s local workforce.

“We have benefited from some of the hardships that people endured,” such as textile and furniture plant closings, he said. “We found a workforce that was skilled” and includes people who do what they say they will do. 

The company received $850,000 from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and $400,000 from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to help with the project. It also is located in an Enterprise Zone, which means it will receive tax breaks from the county during the first five years of operating in the addition.

Schledwitz thanked the commission and state for the funds, saying they were critical to Monogram’s decision to locate in Virginia. He added that the company is held accountable for the funds through audits. 

Martinsville and Henry County also are “on the short list” for a new distribution and packaging center the company plans to build, Schledwitz said. He said that list has been pared down to about three locations, which he did not identify.

He said Monogram will need an additional 100 employees for that facility. 

A decision about the location of that center is expected within the next three months, Schledwitz said during a joint meeting of the Henry County Board of Supervisors and the Henry County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) held before Wednesday’s announcement at the Henry County Administration Building.

McAuliffe said Virginia competed against Iowa and Minnesota for the expansion project. Schledwitz, however, said the company could have gone “anywhere. You all really won out over a lot of places.” 

According to Ches Jackson, president - supply chain for Monogram, Virginia competed successfully against “a number of locations” vying for the project.

“This is a significant expansion for us,” Schledwitz said. “We are very happy to be here. ... We have enjoyed our five-year run and look forward” to continuing to do business in Martinsville-Henry County, he added. 

Monogram opened its facility in the Patriot Centre in 2009 when it acquired a Knauss Foods facility there. That was a risk, Jackson said.

“We were very confident we had a solid strategic plan” to turn the business around, he said. “We hoped it would work” but did not know for certain, he said, adding that he’s glad the company took the risk. 

In detailing Monogram’s history in Henry County, McAuliffe started with its acquisition of Knauss Foods in 2009. At the time, Knauss was losing money and had only between 115 and 125 employees, the governor said.

During its first year, Monogram not only kept those employees but doubled production and added employees, McAuliffe said. Since then, Monogram has invested millions in the local operations, and it now has 333 employees. 

Monogram was founded in 2004 when a group of Memphis investors bought the King Cotton and Circle B Brand Meats business from Sara Lee Corp. Monogram Meat Snacks, a division of Monogram Food Solutions, is one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of meat snacks, including jerky, meat and cheese snacks, kippered beef sticks and pickled sausages, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

These meat snacks are all made in the U.S. and include Wild Bill’s, O’Brien’s, Trail’s Best, Hannah’s, Bull’s and licensed brands Bass Pro Shop’s Uncle Buck’s, Johnsonville and Butterball. 

Monogram Food Solutions also produces a variety of private label brand meat snacks, smoked meats, corn dogs and pre-cooked bacon for partners across the country. In addition to Henry County, Monogram has facilities in Minnesota, Indiana, Texas and Iowa.

In addition to McAuliffe, officials who attended Wednesday’s announcement included Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones; former state delegate Don Merricks, who serves on the tobacco commission and presented its check to Monogram; representatives of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP); Special Adviser for Rural Partnerships Mary Rae Carter; and county, city, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., Chamber of Commerce and Harvest Foundation officials. 


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