Butterball LLC, the nation’s largest turkey producer, is expanding its Raeford operations to include a new production line for turkey bacon products. The company will add 50 jobs to its Hoke County workforce, which currently totals more than 100. Garner, N.C.-based Butterball will invest nearly $20 million in the project.
“Butterball’s continued commitment to Hoke County highlights the strength of our consumer foods sector,” said Don Porter, director of Raeford/Hoke County Economic Development. “The company’s arrival here nearly three years ago has renewed excitement in our community, in addition to creating obvious economic momentum with these new jobs and investment dollars.”
The county’s unemployment rate as of October 2017 was 5.1%, Porter said, citing the most recent figures from the N.C. Department of Commerce. “That’s down significantly from the 6.7% unemployment rate we had in October 2016.”
Butterball arrived in Hoke County in February 2015, assuming part of the operations formerly held by House of Raeford, another large food manufacturer with operations in southeastern North Carolina. Demand by diet-conscious consumers accounts for the growing popularity of turkey bacon, which contains fewer calories than traditional pork bacon.
“When Butterball opened the Raeford plant in 2015, we knew we had a great workforce and a state of the art facility, but the overall operation has exceeded our expectations,” said Barry Gum, Butterball chief financial officer. “Butterball appreciates the continued support of the City of Raeford, Hoke County, NC’s Southeast and the State of North Carolina. We are a proud North Carolina-based company and are excited about the opportunity to continue to grow our business within the state.”
Two grants will support the expansion, one of which will be from the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA). In October, the RIA unanimously approved $390,750 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to assist in the installation of 4,900 linear-feet of 12” water main in support of Butterball’s new operations. Earlier in December, RIA members authorized a $500,000 Building Reuse Grant to help with the renovation of the company’s 244,950-sq.-ft. building, which was constructed in 1995. Hoke County’s Board of Commissioners and the City of Raeford are also lending support to the expansion.
“Modern food manufacturing is the future of Raeford and many other communities across southeastern North Carolina,” said Jeff Etheridge, chairman of The Southeastern Partnership, which worked with Butterball in ironing out the project’s technical specifications. “These are good jobs paying solid wages in a global and largely recession-proof industry. Companies like Butterball are exceptional corporate residents who support the civic fabric of rural North Carolina,” said Etheridge, who is also a member of the Rural Infrastructure Authority.
Headquartered in Garner, N.C., Butterball produces more than a billion pounds of consumer turkey products annually. For 60 years, the company has provided foodservice and retail products to customers around the world. Butterball products are currently distributed throughout the U.S. and in more than 45 countries. The company operates processing plants in North Carolina, Arkansas and Missouri.