Andros celebrates its new expansion

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, gets a tour inside the new manufacturing addition at Andros Foods in Mount Jackson by Jason Simpson, right, vice president of manufacturing, and Thierry Jean, center, CEO at Andros. Rich Cooley/Daily

MOUNT JACKSON – Andros Foods North America cut the ribbon on new expansions of its facility Wednesday.

Attending Wednesday’s festivities were hundreds of Andros employees, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Todd Haymore, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry, and several Andros officials.

The ceremony marked the first step in a three-year, $73 million expansion project that the company announced in April.

Speaking prior to Wednesday’s ceremony, McAuliffe said, “Our economy is roaring, and this announcement today brings it all together what we need to do in (agriculture).”

McAuliffe added that the expansions at the Mount Jackson facility are expected to provide 12.7 million pounds worth of apple-based products.

Andros employees look on as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe addresses the crowd on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Andros Chief Executive Officer Thierry Jean said, “Today, we are making a statement that we have chosen Virginia as our headquarters of our operation.”

Wednesday’s ribbon cutting concerned two newly constructed processing lines that will be used for Andros fruit sauce pouches as well as products for other company products like Mount Jackson-based Fruit Me Up.

Jean noted that the production lines represented a $15-20 million investment for the company.

Jason Simpson, Andros vice president of manufacturing, said the production lines are capable of producing up to 40-50 million pounds per year.

Earlier this year, the state approved a $400,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund.

Thierry Jean, CEO of Andros, and Jason Simpson, left, vice president of marketing for Andros, answer reporters' questions Wednesday after a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Mount Jackson facility. Rich Cooley/Daily

One of the stipulations of the AFID grant is that 30 percent of the apples used in production at the Mount Jackson facility over the next three years must originate from Virginia farms or orchards.

Haymore said, “We have no doubt whatsoever that they will meet those targets.

“And if their business continues to grow, we may see more opportunities for Virginia-grown apples.”

The facility’s expansion plans are of particular interest to the state, as both McAuliffe and Haymore spoke about the facility’s role in helping the state grow its exports.

In 2014, Virginia’s total utilized production was estimated at 195 million pounds of apples, with a total value of $36.7 million. Last year, the state also topped $3 billion in exports of agricultural goods, including apples.

Virginia Gov. Terry McCauliffe, left, chats with Thiery Jean, CEO of Andros Foods, during his visit to the facility on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

With production numbers like that, McAuliffe noted that the goal is to boost Virginia from its current spot as the second largest exporter of agricultural goods in the East Coast.

“The good news is, when I became governor, I promised you we would become the export capitol of the East Coast,” McAuliffe said. “We’ve now moved ahead of North Carolina … and we’ve got the Bulldogs of Georgia ahead of us.”

Haymore said, “We’ve not just talked to them about this project, but we’re also talking about increased apple production in the future (for) traditional apples, maybe looking at organic styles.”

The facility expansions are also expected to create 160 jobs over the next three years, which will increase the more than 600 employees already working at Bowman facility.

Mount Jackson Town Manager Ken Fauber said, “It just broadens our tax base and creates jobs, hopefully for the citizens of the town.”

More specifically, Fauber said that a lot of the tax revenue that Mount Jackson will see will stem from a machinery tool tax, which will apply when Andros imports equipment for new facilities.

“I don’t have a dollar amount, but obviously it will be a significant increase in the machinery tool tax,” Fauber said.

Town Mayer J.G. “Bucky” Miller also expressed excitement about Andros’ expansion of the Bowman Apple Products facility.

“You’re looking at all of the jobs coming into town … I mean that right there is the number one impact,” Miller said.

“They say up and down that Shenandoah County doesn’t have economic development, but you look at Mount Jackson, with this and the Route 11 potato chips venture and everything else we have going on, we’re starting it,” Miller added.

The town is also looking at another massive business or industrial opportunity in the 716-acre “mega site,” which is owned by town resident Robert Whitehurst, that was annexed earlier this year.

The town has the option to rezone the site from its agricultural designation and develop the property in a number of different manners moving forward.

“With us being able to control that growth that goes in there … we feel that we can put a better a business or businesses in that location,” Miller said.

With all of the talk surrounding potential uses, Miller noted, “I’d like to see a little diversity up there … I think if we had a few businesses sitting on that, that would be a lot better than just one business.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com