Vicksburg lands major player, 425 jobs

Published 5:54 pm Saturday, August 25, 2018

The largest manufacturing job creation project in Warren County in more than 15 years was announced Friday, the latest economic development good news in the last three months for the community.

Unified Brands will employ 425 people in what is described as a $9.5 million investment at the Ceres Industrial Complex.

The commercial equipment manufacturer will consolidate three of its company locations to the former Simpson Duravent Building located on 88 Armory Road.

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It plans to be fully operational by January 2019 in the 300,000-square foot facility.

Glenn McCullough, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, gave opening remarks in place of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who was scheduled to attend but was pulled away by the special legislative session.

McCullough noted the job creation that has occurred in Warren County in the last three months.

In May, Industrial Wood Products, a North Carolina lumber company, announced a $2 million investment in a manufacturing facility on Magnolia Road off U.S. 61 South creating 50 jobs.

In June, Vicksburg Forest Products reopened the former Anderson-Tully Sawmill and is expected to hire 125 employees once it is at full capacity.

“Today represents economic security for growing Mississippi’s economy,” McCullough said. “In the last three months, another 642 job opportunities for Warren County and this area of Mississippi have been created.”

A Unified Brands spokesman told the Associated Press the company would rent the building in the Ceres Industrial Park.

It will make refrigerated preparation tables, steam kettles, steamers and commercial dishwashing sinks at its Vicksburg facility.

A common theme at Friday’s announcement among the speakers was the cooperation among all those involved in the process that took almost two years to complete.

“This company could go anywhere, but they chose Vicksburg and Warren County because we play as one team in Mississippi,” McCullough said.

The incentive package, according to MDA public relations specialist Tammy Craft, includes a $2.1 million grant from the state for equipment relocation, as well as $250,000 for workforce training through the Mississippi Works Fund program. The city of Vicksburg is contributing $200,000 in matching funds. Warren County is expected to give property tax breaks, but has not released specific information because it does not have an actual value at this point, Craft said.

A $7B company

Unified Brands, a division of Dover Corp., is considered a leader in professional food equipment design, manufacturing and service products, including cooking equipment, refrigeration systems, ventilation and utility distribution systems, meal delivery systems and more.

The publicly held company has annual revenues of approximately $7 billion.

By transferring work to Warren County from company locations in Oklahoma, Michigan and Byram, Unified Brands also plans new product launches.

“We’re looking forward to the expansion to Vicksburg,” Dave Herring, president of Unified Brands, said. “This facility will enable us to improve the work environment for our employees, increase operational efficiencies and provide a foundation for longterm growth.”

Herring, whose company is based in Conyers, Georgia, said the support from the community proved to be the difference in deciding on choosing Warren County to expand their operations.

“The showing today confirms we made the right choice,” Herring said, noting the overflow crowd on hand for the announcement.

Herring said the community, from the governor to local businesses, really set Warren County apart from the areas of the country Unified Brand considered relocating.

“Plus, we already have a presence in Byram and it’s a fantastic workforce we have, so I didn’t want to shake that up too much,” Herring said. “We wanted to build on that and this community turned out to be phenomenal.”

Herring said 175 current employees at their Byram facility would be offered transfers to the new Vicksburg facility. But Unified Brands will also host two job fairs to fill out 250 additional positions.

The first job fair is scheduled for Sept. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its Ceres facility and a second job fair will be held later in the fall.

Only the beginning?

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said the decision by Unified Brands to select Warren County to consolidate its operations and create jobs is exciting news for the area. He said it was a process that first began locally in February.

“Our economic development team worked tirelessly and closely with the Mississippi Development Authority to win this project for Mississippi and for Vicksburg and Warren County,” Diaz said. “We look forward to supporting Unified Brands as they ramp up and grow in our community.”

Diaz is hopeful this project could lead to more development in the industrial complex, which is also expected to include a Love’s Travel Center in the near future and an additional 50 jobs and $10 million investment.

“I think the last three announcements we have had is an indication we are warming up,” Diaz said. “Because of the name recognition of this company certainly puts us on the map and also gives us a lot of visibility across the nation and we’re going to capitalize on that.”