Food group plans Edinburgh expansion creating 57 new jobs

The corporation that owns Mariah Foods in Columbus will invest more than $32 million in a northern Bartholomew County project that will create new jobs, as well as funnel millions of dollars into the local economy.

In April, the Chicago-based Peer Foods Group will break ground on a 113,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center in German Township, said Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.

Within a year, the facility that will be constructed on 31 acres northeast of the Edinburgh Outlet Mall will create 57 new jobs with an average wage of $14.76 an hour, Hester said.

The construction site, now an agricultural field recently purchased from Golden Endeavors LLC, is located at 3013 W. Presidential Way.

Peer Foods Group is a producer and distributor of major meats.

Founded in 1867, it specializes in cooking, smoking and roasting pork, beef, chicken and turkey for distribution through its Peer, Mariah and Emge branded products.

Mariah Foods, a subsidiary in Columbus, is a food-producing facility which smokes hams, bacon and other meat products for food-service and retail customers.

About 64 current employees of Mariah Foods, located at 1333 Indiana Ave., will eventually be transferred to the new food-processing facility, said Tom Sutton, Peer Foods chief financial officer.

Built in 1933, the 100,000-square-foot Mariah plant has become outdated in a number of ways, but the new facility will give Peer Foods the ability to address shortcomings while increasing production, he said.

The investment breaks down into $27 million in real property improvements, as well as an additional $5.62 million in new equipment, Hester said.

Economic impact

By a unanimous vote, the Bartholomew County Council agreed Tuesday to provide the company 10-year property tax phase-ins on both real estate and personal property. Over those 10 years, the approved tax abatements will provide the corporation total savings of about $1.7 million, Hester said.

However, Peer Foods will still pay more than $2 million in property taxes to the county during that same time, in comparison to $940 now being generated annually by the undeveloped property, Hester said.

In addition, the 57 new jobs are expected to generate about $196,000 in additional local income taxes over 10 years, Hester said.

When 191 short-term construction jobs, as well as associated supplier and consumer jobs, are all taken into consideration, more than $300,000 in county income tax will be generated, Hester said.

“The simplest way of increasing income for any government agency is by increasing the number of jobs in the community,” county council member Jorge Morales said.

When payroll and annual household spending are figured into the equation, the project’s total economic impact to the community will be about $84 million over the next 10 years, council president Mark Gorbett said.

Mariah Foods has not slaughtered its own animals since 1994, Sutton said. All meats brought into the Edinburgh facility will already be broken down into large parts by various vendors prior to processing, he said.

Seven months after construction begins on the 31.39 acres located between the Edinburgh Outlet Mall and Columbus Container Inc., the new equipment is expected to arrive in November, Sutton said.

While that means the plant could functionally become operational by mid-December, time is being set aside for an extensive U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection, he said.

That’s why completion has been conservatively scheduled for April 2019, Hester said.

As early as the middle of last week, Peer Foods was planning on creating 21 new jobs, Sutton said. But the scope of the project ballooned after a Friday meeting in Chicago, he said.

“We decided to move the bacon operation to Edinburgh to give us enough expansion capabilities in Columbus to address the growth concerns of our two biggest customers, Tyson Foods and Sukhi’s Gourmet Indian Foods,” Sutton said. “This will allow us to run bacon and sausage simultaneously.”

Besides providing what Sutton calls operational efficiencies, the revised plans also allows Peer Foods to save $50,000 a month it now pays to rent an Indianapolis warehouse, he said.

Jobs breakdown

The following is a breakdown of the 57 new jobs that will be created when Peer Foods opens its new manufacturing and distribution center near Edinburgh.

  • 32 will work directly in processing sausage and bacon.
  • 21 will be employed in shipping, warehousing, supervision and management.
  • 4 workers will be involved in maintaining round-the-clock refrigeration.

In addition, Peer Foods will relocate 64 current employees from the current Mariah facility in downtown Columbus to the new location.

Source: Peer Foods Group

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.