Starbucks breaks ground for Augusta plant

Representatives of Starbucks Coffee Co., the state economic development office and the Augusta community broke ground Friday on a $172 million manufacturing plant.

The 180,000-square-foot facility will produce Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, the coffee base for Frappuccino drinks and many of Starbucks’ other ready-to-drink beverages and will employ 140. It is scheduled to open in early 2014.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver thanked members of the state and local economic development teams and state and city governments for their efforts in bringing the company to Augusta and praised Starbucks as a company that will fit into the community.

“Their core values mirror our community’s core values,” Copenhaver said. “I like the coffee, but I love the core values.”

“During such challenging economic times, I am thrilled that we are creating jobs and building something special right here in Georgia,” said Peter Gibbons, the executive vice president for Starbucks Global Supply Chain Operations.

Gibbons also announced a $200,000 investment Starbucks is making as a part of the Augusta Regional Collaboration, a new organization that will work to connect existing education, industry and arts to meet local needs.

“Today we promise you, completely and sincerely, to be a part of your community,” Gibbons said.

Starbucks chose the regional collaboration after consulting with local leaders about what the community most needed, Gibbons said.

“We always want to make sure that what we do is helpful to the community,” he said.

Consultant Matt Kwatinetz has been hired to help get the collaboration started, and he said the program will facilitate cooperation and growth in arts-led economic development downtown, education, energy sustainability downtown and business innovation and incubation.

“We’re here not to create something new, but to be the glue to connect existing programs,” he said.

Starbucks is the first tenant in the Augusta Corporate Park on Mike Padgett Highway. Walter Sprouse, the executive director of the Development Authority of Richmond County, said Starbucks’ presence has already been a factor in an increased demand for space in the corporate park.

“This facility is going to set the stage for the rest of the park,” he said.

The Augusta plant is bringing jobs back to the U.S. that are outsourced to companies in Colombia and Switzerland. Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said bringing back jobs from overseas not only gives the company more security over production processes but is an opportunity to help strengthen the American economy.

“It’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

Hutson said Augusta was chosen as the home of the fifth U.S. Starbucks manufacturing facility because of its skilled workforce, access to advanced technology and logistics infrastructure.

Hutson said 75 percent of the jobs at the plant will be skilled processing workers, including maintenance and engineering technicians, roasting operators, soluble process operators and packaging operators. These employees will have two-year, four-year or higher levels of education. The remaining 25 percent will be management and administrative staff.

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