Firm’s employees lauded as essential to making plant a reality

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 19, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

While Sara Lee Coffee and Tea officials and guests may have officially been celebrating the grand opening of the company’s new, high-tech $93 million liquid coffee facility in Suffolk Friday, it was Sara Lee employees who were the stars of the show.

Company, state and city officials alike praised the employees and their role in making the day

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a reality.

&uot;This has been truly an international team effort and without your participation this would not have been possible,&uot; said Adriaan Nuhn, executive vice president of Sara Lee Corporation.

The plant in Wilroy Industrial Park is the company’s first liquid coffee facility in the United States and will employ approximately 100 people at full capacity. It also represents Sara Lee’s largest factory investment ever.

The 152,000-square-foot facility will provide Douwe Egberts liquid coffee to out-of-home and foodservice customers in North America. The company operates a liquid coffee plant in Loure, the Netherlands, that will continue to serve Europe and other markets.

&uot;For Sara Lee Coffee and Tea, the Suffolk facility is a long-term, strategic investment to support the continuing worldwide growth of the Douwe Egberts brand and our global coffee business,&uot; said Nol Bosman, director of manufacturing, Sara Lee Coffee and Tea. &uot;The opening of this new, state-of-the-art liquid coffee facility is an achievement for our dedicated employees, who completed comprehensive training in the Netherlands to ensure a smooth start up of the facility. We also appreciate all of the support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Suffolk to build this great facility.&uot;

Employees, community guests and elected officials including Sen. George Allen, Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Matt Erskine and Suffolk Mayor Bobby Ralph were present to mark the occasion.

&uot;Mayors live for days like this,&uot; Ralph said as he addressed the crowd. He called the plant’s opening a tribute to the workforce, the city’s economic development policies and public-private partnerships.

Sara Lee Coffee and Tea announced plans for the new facility in May 2001. To support Sara Lee’s investment in the community, the Virginia Investment Partnership program awarded a $500,000 grant to assist the company with the new facility and a $200,000 grant was received from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist the City of Suffolk with site preparation. In addition, the City of Suffolk provided a $500,000 grant from the Suffolk Economic Development Investment Program.

Erskine talked about what a competitive situation it was among communities vying to secure the facility.

&uot;Many organizations partnered to show Sara Lee why Virginia, especially Suffolk, was the place for this facility,&uot; Erskine said. But &uot;it was the Suffolk plant employees who really won over Sara Lee and convinced them to locate the facility in Suffolk.&uot;

Allen also touted Virginia’s economy, noting that only Nevada outpaced Virginia in job creation between June 2003 and June 2004.

&uot;That success will continue into next year,&uot; Allen said, thanking the company for its investment in Suffolk. &uot;You’re certainly going to keep Suffolk and Virginia charged up and smiling.&uot;

In order to learn the sophisticated liquid coffee process, employees participated in a training program at the company’s liquid coffee facility in Loure, the Netherlands, for an average of six weeks, depending on their position. In addition, employees from Loure came to the United States to assist with the facility startup and to continue the training process. Through its Workforce Services Program, the Commonwealth of Virginia provided $65,000 toward the employee job-training program.