Economic Development and Food Service & Agriculture

Factory to serve up Hudsonville-area jobs

Township, state incentives keep food processor’s expansion in West Michigan.

June 3, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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A $34.8-million investment in a food processing factory in West Michigan has the potential to change Hudsonville.

Last month, Kent Quality Foods Inc. announced it would invest that amount in land, building and equipment over three years for a new processing plant in Jamestown Township. Neighboring Hudsonville expects to feel a ripple effect from the resulting 140 jobs, said Michelle Fare, marketing coordinator and downtown development authority director for the city.

“For us, 140 jobs is a large employer,” said Fare, also executive director of the Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “They’ll jump in among the ranks of our area’s largest employers in ensuring we have quality jobs.”

The new plant is the second West Michigan location for Kent, founded in Grand Rapids in 1967, and will help grow the company’s capacity. Contracts with nationwide customers have pushed the existing facility to its limits.

The company makes franks, sausages and other meat products for commercial customers.

“This expansion will allow us to meet growing demand as well as provide the opportunity to expand our product lines,” said Kent President Steve Soet.

To find the location for its second facility, Kent looked around the Midwest, including Ohio. By working with Lakeshore Advantage and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the company settled on the Jamestown location.

The economic development entities put together an enticing package. Kent received a $750,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant, and West Michigan Works! offered more than $100,000 in workforce recruitment and training support. Jamestown Township gave the facility a 12-year property tax abatement.

“Kent Quality Foods’ decision to invest and add jobs in West Michigan demonstrates our state’s leadership in agriculture and food production with a business climate that enables the success of growing companies,” MEDC CEO Steve Atwood said.

Along with the incentives, the proximity to the original facility and other food processors and the major agricultural base in West Michigan kept the company here, said Emily Staley, director of marketing and communications at Lakeshore Advantage.

Staley said along with the incentives from local governments and utility programs, having the right people around is important. Food processing requires multiple positions with a variety of skills, including sanitation and quality control, she said.

Hudsonville’s Fare said the new employment opportunities will provide area residents with more options. She said the community is already one for people who seek a calmer lifestyle between Holland and Grand Rapids, but this provides “high-quality jobs for those who don’t want to travel.”

With labor shortages in industries including skilled manufacturing, Fare said this facility could help attract people to the region.

“Choosing the west coast enhances our community and allows people to come for a job, live here, spend money and support businesses and the local economy,” Fare said.

Staley said attracting more primary employers — those that make goods and bring money back into the community — is a priority. Those companies often pay higher and help attract other secondary employers to the market, she said.

“It’s a big win for the community,” Staley said. “This was a team effort that came together to attract them, and it’s always a big win to attract primary employers.”

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