The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday March 30th

Mebane candy factory slated to begin production in July

Morinaga America Foods Inc. is close to completing construction on its 100,000 square-foot candy factory located in Mebane.

The company broke ground on the site in March of 2014 and has had a slated opening for mid-2015 ever since. 

Keita Morinaga, a corporate secretary for the Morinaga Company, said the facility building is almost finished, and can now be seen clearly from Interstate 40 near exit 154. 

“Now we are installing production equipment, and everything has been progressing at a fast pace toward to the opening,” he said.

Steve Brantley, economic development officer for Orange County, said almost all of the promised road and utility connections to the site, as provided by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Orange County, City of Mebane, Duke Energy and PSNC Energy, have now been delivered to the company’s location.

Barry Jacobs, an Orange County commissioner, said in an email the town just extended the company’s temporary lease for an office in the basement of the Link Center in Hillsborough.

But Brantley said the company is anticipating moving out of this temporary office.

“The company plans to move into the new facility sometime in June,” he said. “They plan to have a formal open house event in late October of this year.”

After holding a job fair at the Durham Tech campus in Hillsborough in late January, where 850 people attended and left resumes for employment, Brantley said the firm has hired around 30 employees so far.

This is only a third of what was previously promised. 

“The remaining employees will be hired as the candy production date is closer,” he said. “The company is delivering on its promise to invest $48 million and hire 90 employees.”

Morinaga said the next hiring opportunity depends on the timing of switching to two-shift production, which is expected in 2016.

Two-shift production is when a company moves half of its workforce to a second shift, which then doubles the availability of the plant and the equipment. 

The production of the company's chewy fruit-flavored candy product, Hi-Chew, has not begun yet. 

“Hi-Chew production will be started from July or August,” Morinaga said. “(Closer) to this target, our operation will gradually be moved to the facility from the temporary office in Hillsborough.”

But for the time being, the company has started a new social media campaign dubbed #HiChewFace. Contestants can enter by posting a photo showing how they feel when eating Hi-Chew to either Twitter or Instagram along with this hashtag. 

A winner is picked each Thursday and receives a mixed bag of Hi-Chew and a limited edition sticker up until June 18.

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