McKee Foods churning out jobs in Shenandoah Valley
McKee Foods has announced a sweet economic development deal in Augusta County. The family-owned bakery is investing $34 million and adding 54 jobs at its Stuarts Draft facility.
“The expansion is the result of general business growth,” McKee spokesperson Mike Gloekler said in an email. “We needed to increase our production capacity to meet our growing needs.”
Tennessee-based McKee Foods will begin hiring next year for jobs, including process technicians, truck drivers, and maintenance and supervisory positions, according to Amanda Glover, Augusta County’s economic development director. The jobs will have an average annual pay of $34,055, she says (that figure does not include benefits).
“McKee had done a lot of the upfront evaluation of the business decision when we began discussions, so the deal fell into place fairly quickly, and we really had a commitment within a few months window,” says Glover about working with McKee.
Gloekler said the expansion is not associated with a particular product line and that no new products will be created. McKee products include Little Debbie snack cakes, Drake’s DevilDogs and Heartland Granola Cereal.
Gloekler says McKee chose Virginia for the expansion because of the high-performing nature of the Stuarts Draft plant, its available space and Augusta County’s skilled workforce. Virginia competed against Arkansas for the project.
To secure the deal, Gov. Terry McAuliffe approved a $300,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership program, an amount that was matched by Augusta County. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program also will provide funding and services for the company’s employee training.
Since coming to Augusta County in 1990, McKee Foods has expanded several times, including a $19 million expansion announced in 2012 that was slated to create 78 jobs.
McKee was created during the Great Depression by O.D. McKee, who began selling 5-cent snack cakes from the back of his car in Chattanooga, Tenn. Today, Collegedale, Tenn.-based McKee employs about 5,000 people in the United States, roughly 20 percent of whom are based in Virginia. In 2013, McKee Foods posted sales of about $1.2 billion, and expects sales to be the same this year, Gloekler says.