Potato salad plant to add 500 jobs in Halifax

Posted January 19, 2010 3:18 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2010 7:15 p.m. EST

— An Oregon-based company that makes a range of food products, from potato salad to tortillas, plans to expand its plant in Halifax and add 500 jobs, officials said Tuesday.

Reser's Fine Foods Inc. opened a 160,000-square-foot plant in the Halifax Industrial Center off N.C. Highway 903 nine years ago to make refrigerated macaroni and pasta salads and desserts like puddings and gelatins. Since then, production has ballooned from 40 million pounds a year to 100 million pounds last year, plant manager Randy Earle said.

Earle said the plant was expanded by 40 percent two years ago, and Reser's plans to expand it again in three phases to accommodate growing production. The company will invest $15 million this year in the first phase of the expansion, officials said.

"Every year we've been here, we've grown," Earle said. "We're a growth-oriented company, and we're going to grow in the future."

Gov. Beverly Perdue said the company expects to add at least 100 jobs a year over the next five years and transform the plant into Reser's East Coast headquarters.

"The stronger we are in every town, the stronger we are in every section of the state," Perdue said in announcing the expansion.

She compared the jobs to "banana pudding from my mother," noting eastern North Carolina needs plenty of new jobs.

Halifax County has a 13.6 percent unemployment rate, and more than a quarter of the residents live below the poverty line, according to state and federal figures. The median household income in 2007 was $29,236.

The jobs will pay an average of $23,000 a year, plus benefits, officials said.

State officials said Reser's will qualify for a $1 million grant from the One North Carolina Fund. The fund provides money to recruit companies that spur job creation, and firms must meet specific hiring and investment targets to obtain the grant.

Reser's is a family-owned company that started in 1950 near Portland, Ore., when Mildred and Earl Reser began commercially producing and marketing potato salad. It now is among the nation's leading providers of refrigerated salads, dips, spreads and Mexican foods to supermarkets and restaurants, and it has 12 plants and about 2,000 employees in the U.S.

The company markets its products under the Reser's, Stonemill Kitchens, Baja Cafe, Don Pancho and Mrs. Kinser's brand names.

The football stadium at Oregon State University is named for the Reser family.