Irish food manufacturer set to add 370 jobs in RI

A Greencore truck. (photo: Greencore Group Plc)

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – A leading Irish food company plans to move its regional operations from Massachusetts to a new manufacturing facility at the Quonset Business Park that will eventually employ nearly 400 workers.

Greencore Group Plc, a Dublin-based maker of sandwiches and other ready-to-eat foods, received approval for a 50-year lease from Quonset’s board of directors at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a good day for Rhode Island,” Gov. Lincoln Chafee said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Greencore will use a 15-acre parcel at Quonset to build a 107,000-square-foot facility that could house more than 390 workers, with an option to expand by another 40,000 square feet and bring total employment to more than 600, Chafee’s office said. Construction is expected to begin by May 1 because Quonset’s parcels come pre-approved for permits.

In exchange for signing the 50-year lease, Greencore will receive a 25% discount on its rent payments as well as an additional discount tied to wages, which Quonset officials said is a standard incentive package.

“In searching for the right location, we wanted to find a place where we could build quickly, have easy access to the major cities on the East Coast, and be in a place where we could grow in the future,” Greencore USA CEO Liam McClennon said in a statement. “Quonset met all those criteria perfectly – it is a world-class facility.”

Greencore said the new Quonset facility will allow the company to serve its existing clients in New England and seek new contracts in New York. The company said it will close its existing Massachusetts factories – in Newburyport and Brockton – between April and September 2015. The estimated 716 employees at those locations will be offered jobs in Rhode Island.

Greencore took over the Newburyport facility in 2008, when it bought Home Made Brand Foods Inc., and the Brockton facility in 2010, when it acquired On A Roll Sales Inc. Greencore’s other U.S. facilities are in Chicago; Fredericksburg, Va.; Salt Lake City; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Minneapolis.

The Quonset factory will employ 370 workers when it opens in the spring of next year, Greencore said. The company estimated it will spend £20 million ($33.2 million) over the next 15 months building the new Rhode Island facility.

Greencore has a growing business in the United States, where it began operating in 2008, and now supplies 7-Eleven Inc. and Starbucks Corp. with fresh food for their stores, according to the company’s annual report. The company’s global revenue totaled £1.2 billion ($2 billion) in 2013. Its U.S. headquarters is in Danvers, Mass.

“We are delighted to announce the development of a new food-to-go facility in Rhode Island,” Greencore CEO Patrick Coveney said in a statement, adding that the company’s goal is to “build a strong, growing, profitable food-to-go business in the U.S.A.” Coveney recently told FoodManufacture.co.uk that he wants the company’s U.S. sales to reach $500 million to $1 billion by 2019, up from roughly $250 million last year.

Greencore was established in 1991 when the Irish government privatized the state-owned Irish Sugar Corp., which had been founded in 1926. Greencore closed its last existing Irish sugar plant in 2005.

The 3,207-acre Quonset Business Park, which is housed on the land that used to host the U.S. Navy’s adjoining bases at Quonset and Davisville, is now home to more than 175 companies that employ about 9,500 full- and part-time workers, according to official figures from the quasi-public Quonset Development Corp., which runs the park. Its largest corporate tenant is General Dynamics Corp. subsidiary Electric Boat, which recently signed a new 25-year lease.

Ted Nesi( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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