Allen Harim plans to invest $100 million to convert the former Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro into a chicken-processing facility.
The Seoul, South Korea-based Harim says the new plant will employ an estimated 700 people and could be operational by November 2014.
Allen Harim CEO Gary Gladys said in a press release, “We are excited about bringing Millsboro into our family. The new facility will expand our processing capacity and allow us to introduce new products and hire more employees.”
Fred Downs, human resources complex manager for Allen Harim, with offices in Seaford, said the $100 million investment includes the purchase of the facility and upgrades to convert the plant for chicken processing. The facility will house a poultry processing, cut-up and cooking operation.
Doug Freeman, senior manager of human resources for Allen Harim, said the plant will have both poultry production jobs and cooking jobs. He said the facility sits on 107 acres, with 112,000 square feet of production space and 360,000 square feet for warehousing.
“We believe that our base on the Delmarva Peninsula provides a solid foundation for future growth, and this facility fits into that strategy,” Gladys said. Harim purchased Allen Foods in 2011 for $48 million. The company has additional chicken processing plants in Harbeson and Cordova, Md.
Pinnacle Foods, maker of Vlasic pickles, announced it was closing its Millsboro plant in August 2012, resulting in layoffs for nearly 400 full and part-time employees. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said he discussed the Vlasic plant with Allen Harim representatives, and in December, when Kee and Gov. Jack Markell traveled to Seoul, Harim’s corporate base, discussions included the Vlasic plant. Around that time, Kee said, Harim began negotiating with Pinnacle to purchase the facility.
Kee said the purchase is entirely privately funded, and no state funds are involved. He said that could change as Harim begins renovate the facility. Transportation upgrades – such as truck entrances – and wastewater upgrades are eligible for state assistance.
“The poultry industry is the backbone of Delaware’s agriculture economy, and Harim is now making it stronger,” Kee said. “Our poultry growers will have more opportunity; our workers will have more jobs, and our state will sell more chicken, helping cement Sussex County’s position as the No. 1 broiler-producing county in the nation."
Rep. John Atkins, D-Millsboro, said it was very good news for his district, more than making up for the jobs lost when Vlasic left the region.
Amy Simmons, executive director of the Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce, said Allen Harim taking over could be a big boost not only for jobs, but for local businesses and the housing market.
Alan Levin, director of Delaware Economic Development Office, said in addition to the 700 jobs expected to be created by the plant, there will also be short-term job opportunities expected in construction as the plant is retrofitted and in training new employees. Levin said Allen Harim plans to use Delaware contractors to install the new equipment, and new employees will create additional demand for housing.
"We don't get to talk about 700 jobs in Sussex County very often, so this is a great thing," he said.
Markell said, “We are pleased by this important expansion by Harim Group in Sussex County. This decision strengthens Harim’s commitment to Delaware, and it helps many Delawareans in Sussex County who want to work for this growing company."