By Valerie Baldowski
McDonough city officials say they are anticipating the official opening of a new De Wafelbakkers manufacturing and food processing plant that will add 242 new jobs to the Henry County economy. And they expect it to happen in less than a year.
The operation, it is believed, will generate a $27.5 million investment during its first three years in the area, said LaRhonda Jackson, communications specialist for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
In April, Gov. Sonny Perdue's office announced the corporation's intentions to open a distribution and food processing facility in McDonough.
"As we always have said, anytime anybody invests in our community, and obviously a lot of capital is going to be invested here in a new corporation, we want to do anything we can to make them successful," said McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland. "The potential is here for employment among our talented workforce, and we certainly have one."
De Wafelbakkers is a manufacturer of frozen waffles, French toast and pancakes. It is based out of Arkansas. The company will open in a 92,000-square-foot, vacant building in Liberty Industrial Park, according to Henry County Development Authority Executive Director Bob White.
"We're here now, we've taken ownership of the building," said Chris Gambino, engineering manager for De Wafelbakkers. "Our engineering project has begun; we've done the preliminary work. We expect to be up and manufacturing food ... [in] nine to 12 months."
Gambino said the interior of the building needs to be "reconfigured" before De Wafelbakker's equipment can be moved into place and bolted to the floor.
"The original plant was a bread-manufacturing facility, actually, before that it was a food-packaging facility," he said. "Just from the standpoint of where drains are on the floor, they had some rooms that were set up [with] insulated walls for the bread-manufacturing plant, that we won't use ..."
Mayor Copeland, along with McDonough City Administrator Billy Beckett, District IV Councilman Monta Brown, George R. Douglas, Jr., president of George R. Douglas & Associates, LLC, a supplier for the manufacturing company, met with Gambino Thursday to hear an update on preparations to open the facility.
The city also sent an official welcome to Dumas Garrett, De Wafelbakkers' president and chief executive officer, Copeland said. "I wrote him a note yesterday, and I said 'welcome to the new promised land,'" said the mayor. "We are pleased that they are here."
Beckett said the city is happy the company will be a member of the business community. "We're delighted to have them as neighbors, and look forward to any partnership that we can have with [them] going forward. The jobs anticipated to be created will benefit the local economy, " Beckett added.
Brown said the city is always happy to establish a partnership with any new business, whether large or small. "It's always a plus ... for the city, to have business come in and stimulate the economy to bring jobs, and opportunities for local people," he said.