Lieb Foods of Kennewick announced Wednesday a $200 million investment in a new canned beverage production line that could result in more jobs.
The new equipment will allow the company to package a variety of carbonated and pasteurized beverages in aluminum cans.
"We can accommodate large national and international companies or smaller companies too, like private labels for grocery chains," said Pat Kelly, vice president of business development for Lieb Foods. The company is owned by Jim Lieb and headquartered in Forest Grove, Ore.
Lieb Foods doesn't have its own label, but manufactures and packages beverages, sauces, dressings and jams for other companies. It ships products throughout the Northwest, across the country and overseas, Kelly said.
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The company's goal is to be a one-stop, world-class packaging source, said Lieb in a news release.
"We see a trend toward high-quality, cost-effective aluminum cans, which is one of our specialties. With the growth in tea, energy drinks and specialty water, there is tremendous momentum in this market," he said.
Lieb and his staff have been working with the Tri-City Development Council on the project since fall.
"TRIDEC supplied some of the money through our incentive fund, and so did the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund," said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of TRIDEC. He declined to say how much TRIDEC contributed toward the facility's upgrade.
Kelly said Lieb Foods didn't have to expand the plant. Instead, it removed some old equipment left from the previous owner, Welch's, which provided the space to put in the high-speed aluminum can line, the only one Lieb Foods owns.
The production line has been installed and was tested last week.
"We found a few things we need to finalize on the line, and then it will be up and running," Kelly said. He said Lieb Foods already has contracts in place to manufacture and package products in cans.
The Kennewick facility, which employs about 150 people, also specializes in packaging beverages in single-serve, clear plastic bottles holding 16 to 32 ounces.
"Depending on the volume of business in Kennewick, the anticipation is yes, we'll need to add employees. We still have the bottling line to maintain and produce," Kelly said.
Adrian said Lieb Foods "has been a good employer in the community. We've helped them out a couple of different times, and they've always done what they said they would do."
"This is a good project for the community and good for downtown Kennewick," Adrian said. "To my mind, credit goes to the city and to TRIDEC because when a company comes to town and wants to expand, it means they've had a good experience here."
Kelly agreed, saying, "Kennewick has been a wonderful location for us."