Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Governor confirms: Lotus Bakeries chooses Mebane over Belgium for $62 million expansion

Lotus Bakeries, the Belgian company famous for its Biscoff carmelized cookies served on many airlines, has chosen Mebane for a $62 million plant expansion that will allow the production of additional lines of new products for the company. The plant expansion is also expected to add 90 new jobs to the Mebane facility.

The announcement was made Thursday by Governor Roy Cooper, who also announced that the state is chipping in a performance-based grant of $180,000 from the One North Carolina Fund. From another pot of state money, Cooper announced that an additional $500,000 will be used to support the Lotus expansion in Mebane.

The company’s new project in Alamance County will expand its current manufacturing facility an additional 111,000 square feet and add three new production lines to its operations, according to the governor’s office. The size of the expansion has grown somewhat since Mebane’s city council considered the project last month; at that point, 103,000 additional square feet were announced.

The announcements of these two state-level awards come barely a month after Mebane’s city council promised Lotus $600,000 over five years to proceed with the proposed expansion. The city council also agreed to waive the planning and development fees that Lotus would otherwise incur as part of this project.

The proposed 103,000 square foot building expansion would be on the back side of the company’s current footprint in Mebane, based on plans shown to Mebane’s city council in May. (See red outlined portion on graphic.) The governor’s announcement now lists the expansion as 111,000 square feet.
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When the council approved the money for the project in May, it was then described as a $60 million expansion with 86 new jobs with an average salary of $43,510. The state announcement lists the average annual wage as $43,282 for 90 jobs.

During a May 3 presentation to Mebane’s city council, Bart Vanterwyngen, the head of the company’s Mebane plant, said the company’s U.S. expansion will allow the production of some additional product lines that the company has launched: Biscoff sandwich cookies (with chocolate or vanilla filling), as well as Biscoff-flavored ice cream, and also a fruit roll.

Vanterwyngen noted last month to Mebane’s city council that the company’s board of directors was deciding between whether to establish the additional production facility in the U.S. or back home in Belgium.

Among Lotus Bakeries’ new offerings, which might be made in Mebane in the expanded production facility, according to the company, are sandwich cookies with various flavors; ice cream; and Bear brand fruit rolls.

 

Significant “financial downsides” to the U.S choice, Vanterwyngen outlined at the time, are higher sugar prices in the U.S. vs. Europe (as on ongoing production consideration), as well as the high price of steel in the U.S. vs. using concrete supports in Europe for construction.
The governor’s announcement confirmed that that company had chosen the U.S. for its expansion. “It is proof of our great quality of life and strong communities like the Alamance County area when companies like Lotus Bakeries continue to expand in our state,” said Governor Cooper. “They know firsthand that we have the skilled workforce to help them succeed.”

The company also expressed enthusiasm for the decision to locate the expansion in Mebane. “We’ve done the research and after considering the alternatives, we’re thrilled to expand our operations in North Carolina,” said Michelle Singer, General Manager, Lotus Bakeries US. “Mebane provides our company a great location to manufacture our products while offering our skilled employees a rewarding and nice place to live.”

The Mebane and state incentives are the third for the company which first decided to locate its only U.S. manufacturing facility in Mebane in 2017.

Prior to the city council’s approval of this six-figure package, Lotus had also approached Alamance County’s commissioners with a comparable request for a five-year payout of $600,000.

In 2016, the county’s board of commissioners had seen fit to give Lotus an even more generous welcoming gift of $1.5 million to cement the company’s plans to set up shop in the area. Two years later, the commissioners tacked on another $262,000 after the company announced that it had scaled up its original plans for the production facility.

But a third request for incentives largesse apparently proved too much for the county’s governing board, which had seen four of its five seats change hands since the general election in 2020.

In the end, the new board of commissioners deadlocked 2-to-2 over Lotus’ latest request for incentives when it came up for a vote in the third week of April. The company’s request consequently failed to obtain the majority vote that it needed to pass.

The OneNC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All OneNC grants require a matching grant from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement that same day, Cooper declared that this plant’s proposed expansion will also receive an additional $500,000 from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority. This particular grant was one of 11 such outlays that the Rural Infrastructure Authority has recently awarded to projects across North Carolina. In this case, the funds for Lotus are contingent on a taxable investment of at least $59.5 million and the addition of at least 86 jobs to the community’s work force.


Read earlier Alamance News coverage of Mebane city council’s decision to authorize $600,000 in incentives for the new Lotus project. https://alamancenews.com/mebane-gives-cookie-maker-incentives-it-sought-for-expansion/

Read earlier Alamance News coverage of the county commissioners’ consideration of the same incentives package:  https://alamancenews.com/breaking-mon-night-county-commissioners-deadlock-over-newest-incentives-for-lotus-bakeries/

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