Facility Expected to Add 50 to 60 Jobs to Local Economy
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – Following the August announcement of Darling Ingredients, Inc. intention to locate a facility in Grapeland, anticipation was running high for the publicly traded company to break ground on the facility.
That anticipation was quenched on Tuesday, Nov. 28 as executives from Darling Ingredients arrived in the Queen City of the Sand Flats for the official groundbreaking ceremony.
The Darling executives were met by a large turnout of Grapeland residents and dignitaries who wanted to extend their best wishes to the company as it undertakes the $40 million construction project.
In a previous interview, Melissa Gaither, Darling’s Vice President of Investor Relations and Global Communications said, “Darling Ingredients, Inc. (NYSE: DAR) is a global developer and producer of sustainable natural ingredients from edible and inedible bio-nutrients. The facility will be built in support of a regional poultry processing operation currently under development and the finished products produced will include natural fats and proteins for sale into the production of pet food and renewable fuel.”
The ceremony was opened by Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey who welcomed those in attendance.
“It’s a distinct honor to be with you this morning,” the mayor began, “for the groundbreaking of the new North America Division – Darling Ingredients plant.”
“Today’s event will be a significant recognition of this project’s economic and growth impact for our city, county, state and nation,” Dailey said.
He added the products manufactured and produced in Grapeland “… will have an economic impact on a wide range of manufactured products and jobs, far beyond our area. The importance of this plant will be consistently demonstrated for decades to come.”
Following Dailey’s opening remarks, the mayor introduced Rick Elrod, Executive Vice-President of Darling USA.
Elrod provided the audience with a brief background of the company and said the company spanned the globe with locations on five of the seven continents.
“We see the world differently than anyone else because of the differing facets we are involved with,” Elrod explained. “So, why are we here? Why are we here in Grapeland, Texas? We were challenged about a year and a half ago to grow our footprint in Texas, as far as pet food and poultry conversion.”
He said when the company initially began looking for a new location they began working with former County Judge Erin Ford and continued their work with current County Judge Jim Lovell in order to bring the facility to fruition.
Once a decision to locate in the Grapeland area was broached, Mayor Dailey, along with the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) came on board and helped to finalize the deal.
“We look forward to bringing good jobs to the community. We will start with 50 to 65 jobs and hope we will grow larger. That is what we know we will need to start this operation. There will be truck drivers, maintenance people, mechanics, office personnel and process operators. It is a fantastic place to work,” Elrod said.
Elrod furthered Darling wanted to become an integral part of the community by hiring local residents, using area contractors when possible and purchasing products from local vendors.
In addition, Elrod said, the company wanted to actively support Grapeland ISD in a variety of ways.
Before Elrod concluded, he introduced Mike Hudlow, Senior Vice-President of Engineering and Construction for Darling-North America.
“We started this project about 18 months ago. I have put together several of these projects over the course of my career and honestly, the community, the economic development organization, the county and the city council could not have made this a more pleasant and enjoyable experience,” Hudlow said.
“When all is said and done, we are looking at spending upwards of $40 million. This is a big project for us and a big project for the community,” he said.
Dailey returned to the podium once Hudlow concluded and introduced several local dignitaries in attendance. All remarked how excited they were to see the project becoming a reality and expressed their thanks to Darling for choosing Grapeland and Houston County for their new facility.
Among those present were: State Senator Robert Nichols; Betty Russo from Governor Gregg Abbott’s office; Vita Swarers from U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady’s office; Nancy Windham, CEO of the Texas Forest Country Partnership; and Executive Director of DETCOG Lonnie Hunt.
At the county level, the dignitaries included: County Judge Jim Lovell; Precinct One Commissioner Gary Lovell; Precinct Four Commissioner Kennon Kellum; and Houston County Fire Marshal Roger Dickey.
Dailey saved some of his most effusive praise for Brandon Bridges and C.L. McGill along with other members of the GEDC for their tireless efforts in helping to bring Darling Ingredients to Grapeland.
Dailey also expressed his appreciation to past and present members of the Grapeland City Council and the Grapeland Noon Lions Club for organizing, preparing and coordinating the groundbreaking ceremony.
The plant is expected to be up and running in the early part of 2019.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.