Amy's Kitchen to expand in South Carolina

  • PC: Karina Cardenas (cq) works at the end of the assembly line making Mexican casserole bowl meals at Amy's Kitchen in Santa Rosa on Friday morning December 10, 2004.

    12/12/2004: A1: SANTA ROSA: Karina Cardenas works at the end of the assembly line at Amy's Kitchen on Friday. The Santa Rosa plant will remain open.

Petaluma organic frozen food producer Amy's Kitchen unveiled plans Wednesday to open a $63 million production facility in South Carolina and hire 700 workers over six years.

The announcement will give the expanding company its first East Coast plant just four months after it disclosed plans to start production this spring in the United Kingdom.

The East Coast expansion will not affect the company's West Coast operations, said Andy Berliner, Amy's co-founder and chief executive officer.

"We want to assure everyone that we will continue to operate our production facility and headquarters here in Sonoma County as well as our plant in White City, Oregon with no changes," Berliner said in a statement.

Berliner and his wife, Rachel, began the privately-held company in 1988 and named it for their daughter. Today, Amy's is on pace to exceed $300 million in sales this year and employs about 1,500 people at its West Coast facilities. A new plant in Corby, England is slated to initially employ about 30 people.

The new plant in South Carolina will help Amy's transport its products more efficiently to customers on the East Coast. The company hopes to begin making frozen entrees at the new plant late this year or in early 2012.

"The primary reason for the new South Carolina plant is that the rapid growth of our company has pushed us to the limit of our capacity at our facilities in California and Oregon," Berliner said in an email interview.

Gov. Nikki Haley and other South Carolina officials courted Amy's, offering financial incentives to remodel an old Sara Lee plant in Greenville County.

"Today's announcement is a major economic development win not just for the Upstate, but South Carolina as a whole," Gov. Nikki Haley said.

Amy's began looking at an East Coast expansion several years ago, calling it "Project Verde." Economic pangs led the company to put the project on the shelf for a time, but Amy's sales continued to grow and it began looking again last year, said Mark Rudolph, Amy's chief financial officer.

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