The Augusta Economic Development Authority announced Wednesday that Starbucks will build a 110,000- to 160,000-square-foot plant, which will occupy 100 acres in the Augusta Corporate Park, a 1,500 acre site off Mike Padgett Highway.
Construction will begin this spring and the plant is expected to open in January 2014.
The new Augusta plant, Starbucks’ fifth manufacturing facility in the United States, will be the company’s first owned and operated facility in the world to produce soluble products, such as VIA Ready Brew, ingredients for Frappuccino and many of Starbucks ready-to-drink beverages. Those products are currently produced outside the U.S., Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said.
The plant will prepare and package ingredients and finished products for most of the company’s soluble-based beverages for all of North America and parts of Europe, according to a news release.
“With an abundance of skilled workers, a great quality of life, convenient access to transportation that is critical to our business and strong support from local and state leaders, Augusta is an ideal location for our newest manufacturing facility in the U.S. We’re proud to be expanding our connection with the Augusta community and to be creating American manufacturing jobs during such challenging economic times,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and CEO.
At Wednesday’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, Schultz said it would have been more cost-effective to have the products manufactured outside the U.S., but the decision to build the Augusta plant came from a commitment to American manufacturing.
“The economics of it showed that it would be cheaper to build outside of the U.S. but it meant more to us to build in the U.S.,” he said.
Starbucks was looking at two other locations, said Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the development authority, and the project has been in talks about nine months.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Sprouse said. “We worked really hard for this one.”
He said the deciding factors for the company were the high caliber of the Augusta-area workforce and the existing logistics infrastructure with the Georgia Ports Authority’s Savannah operations.
“It kept coming back to workforce and training,” Sprouse said. “I can’t say enough about the roles Augusta Technical College, Augusta State University and Paine College had in this thing.”
Augusta officials didn’t schedule a news conference about the announcement because they had already planned to be in Atlanta to talk with lawmakers, including a meeting with Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal started his comments to the combined group from the chambers of commerce from Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties by beaming over a Starbucks shopping bag with a souvenir mug for him.
“Obviously, you already know of our success getting Starbucks to come to the Augusta area,” he said. “Any time you get a $172 million investment and 140 jobs that is good news for our state and certainly moving in the right direction.”
He said the Starbucks announcement was emblematic of developments in the state, such as last week’s groundbreaking by Caterpillar for a bulldozer plant in Athens. He is pushing legislation that he says would lure companies with tax cuts and a larger incentive fund.
Clinching the Starbucks deal was $600,000 in local improvements that local officials agreed to supply, such as grading, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure improvements. The company also qualified under state law for employee training, job credits, and tax credits for using the Port of Savannah to import its supplies and to export to England its finished product.
Thinning the trees at the Augusta Corporate Park made the site more attractive, especially to a company that tries to minimize its environmental impact, Sprouse said.
Augusta industrial recruiters hope that image will help them attract other companies with a similar orientation.
“We’re delighted to have a global company like Starbucks coming to the community,” said Henry Ingram, the chairman of the development authority.
The plant will be a great addition to the Augusta economy and community, Sprouse said, with a wide range of skilled jobs in a state-of-the-art facility.
“They are very environmentally conscious, and it’s a good, solid company with a tremendous reputation,” he said.
Hutson said the nearest of the four existing Starbucks plants is in Sandy Run, S.C., where they roast coffee beans.
The Augusta Corporate Park site was donated to the authority in 1993 by the Kimberly-Clark Corp., which once had planned to build a pulpwood facility to supply its Beech Island plant.
Morris News Service reporter Walter Jones contributed to this article.