County approves job creation and incentive agreement for King’s Hawaiian project

The final local step in bringing a new food manufacturing facility to German Township was completed Monday.

Four days after the Bartholomew County Council voted to spend $2.7 million of the county’s reserve funds on off-site infrastructure improvements, the Bartholomew County commissioners unanimously approved a job creation and incentive agreement with Irresistible Foods Group, Inc. Monday – the corporation that owns the King’s Hawaiian brand.

“Welcome to Bartholomew County, King’s Hawaiian,” proclaimed commissioner’s Chairman Tony London, prompting cheering and applause in the commissioner’s chambers.

The agreement that specifies the number of jobs and wages, as well as penalties for non-compliance, still has to be approved by top executives at Irresistible Foods within 10 days.

Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. President Jason Hester says the corporation already has a copy of the document.

With an investment of just under $200 million, King’s Hawaiian plans to create 147 new jobs by 2027 with an average wage of $29.94 per hour, Hester said. Their facility will be built off County Road 200W, just east of the Indiana Premium Outlets.

About $2.56 million of the money from the reserve funds will be used to improve the water pressure for Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. for fire suppression. Contrary to earlier claims, the upgrade will not improve the water quality, Hester said.

If the company backs out of the deal for some reason, Hester said Irresistible Foods executives have agreed to pay the county back for improving the water pressure, as well as for $550,000 for new or upgraded sanitary sewers.

But that does not mean the offsite improvements are only for the King’s Hawaiian food manufacturing facility, London said.

“The improvements will not only benefit the project, but also the surrounding Taylorsville residential and business community,” London said.

Besides the $2.7 million in reserves, other offsite infrastructure improvements will be financed with economic development income tax revenue, an Indiana Infrastructure Development grant fund, and other state and local financial resources up to a maximum of $3,746,000, London said.

Those other improvements include $400,000 on a new traffic signal and intersection improvements at U.S. 31 and Bear Drive. In addition, $250,000 will go toward a reconfiguration of radius at Hubler Drive at Bear Lane to facilitate truck turns, according to data provided to the council last week.

Groundbreaking for King’s Hawaiian will begin in 2024, with construction continuing into 2026, with full operations to begin in 2027, according to Kristen Goecker, project manager.

In a related matter, an agreement between Eastern Bartholomew Water Corp. and the county was also approved Monday. According to the memorandum of understanding, the utility agrees to obtain qualified professionals to design and construct improvements requiring larger underground water pipes to increase the water pressure.

However, it will take a good amount of time before work gets underway, Eastern Bartholomew board president Ted Darnell said. The project will require obtaining several permits, including permission from the Indiana Department of Transportation, to bore under U.S. 31, he said. In addition, there will be some areas where easements must be obtained, Darnell said.

“Certainly, a lot of work to do before the shovels hit the ground,” he said.

But since the project is considered an Indiana Economic Development Corp.-supported project, help at the state level will be made available to expedite the permitting process, Hester said.

County councilman Jorge Morales stressed the infrastructure improvements will meet the area’s future economic development needs – not just those for King’s Hawaiian.

“Without (the infrastructure improvements), we would not be able to bring additional businesses to this area,” Morales said.