‘Full steam ahead’ for coffee roaster

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, November 3, 2012

The price of shares in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has taken a beating in the year since it announced plans for a facility in Windsor, but its commitment to the area is unchanged, according to the company and Isle of Wight County officials.

When plans for the coffee production and distribution facility at Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park, promising up to 800 jobs, were announced in late October 2011, shares in the company were worth about $70.

At the close of trading Friday, shares had fallen 62 percent to about $26, but a company spokeswoman said its plans for the county remain the same.

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“When the company announced the facility late last year, we noted it could have as many as 800 employees within five years,” Katie Gilroy, the company’s corporate relations manager, wrote in an email.

“We currently have close to 90 employees on staff and continue to seek great talent.”

The company reportedly paid $15 million for the 64-acre parcel of land at the industrial park on Route 460.

It said it would invest up to $180 million in the first five years in a facility for roasting, grinding, flavoring and packaging specialty coffees used in its Keurig single-cup brewing units.

Market analysts have chalked up the dive in Green Mountain’s share price, in part, to the expiration of its patents for the K-Cups used in the Keurig machines and the resulting explosion of rivals, many of these selling their units at a lower cost.

Coffee giant Starbucks, for instance, recently started selling its first-ever single-cup machine, the Verismo.

To build the new facility in Windsor, Green Mountain Coffee secured incentive deals from the county and the commonwealth of Virginia, respectively, worth $7.9 million and $4 million.

To benefit from these agreements, county Department of Economic Development Director Lisa Perry said, the company would have to meet goals for investment in the facility and for hiring.

“We have to see that they have met benchmarks before we cut a check,” she said.

Gilroy indicated that Green Mountain is on track for meeting these goals, writing, “In Windsor specifically, the company is still going through the site build-out process and is optimizing its labor and equipment to meet plant production targets in support of the volume it expects company-wide for holiday 2012.”

The county is not concerned that the shifting market for single-cup systems and the company’s devaluation by investors will result in less hiring, Perry said.

“We have received nothing but extremely open communication on the subject since we started working with them two years ago,” she said. “We’re not concerned, and we’re excited.”

“A number of people” have been moving to the county for jobs in the Green Mountain plant, she said, including families from Vermont who have bought homes in the area.

County Board of Supervisors member Delores Darden believes the company is “full steam ahead” in getting the plant up and running in the district she represents.

“They have people working almost around the clock trying to get it ready,” she said. “We’re looking forward to them. I think they’re going to be very good for our county.”

The National Coffee Association reported in March that ownership of single-cup systems in America increased from 1 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2011, and predictions are the trend will continue.