18-month Oscar Mayer expansion project beginning this fall

The plant will be receiving a 75 percent tax break with plans to invest $114 million in equipment and machinery upgrades.

Boone County approved a 75 percent tax break for the Oscar Mayer plant in Columbia on July 8, which will allow them to begin a $114 million expansion project that could start this fall. The money will be used to add 25,000 square feet to the facility and increase efficiency in the plant through equipment and machinery upgrades.

The company currently employs about 450 people. After the expansion, they will employ about 350 to 400 people, Regional Economic Development Inc. secretary David Griggs said. REDI works on economic development with local companies in Columbia and Boone County. About one in five jobs at the plant would be cut due to the machinery advancements.

“We wanted to be certain we could meet our commitment to the state, county and Regional Economic Development, so we erred on the side of being conservative and pledged to retain at least 350 positions,” Kraft Heinz spokeswoman Joyce Hodel said in an email.

Some of the equipment in the plant has been there since it was originally built 30 years ago. Hodel said the old hot dog equipment would be replaced with two new high-speed lines.

Griggs said he fully supports the expansion project.

“It makes this plant one of the most modern plants in their company wide processes, which pretty much cements or glues their long-term presence in our community,” Griggs said.

After 30 years of operation, the Oscar Mayer plant impacted the community beyond just making and serving hot dogs. Griggs said last year the company paid over $350,000 in property taxes, which was given to local schools and other taxing entities.

“They’re a pretty valuable corporate citizen in our community,” Griggs said.

MU sophomore Andrew Wisniewsky said he enjoys eating Oscar Mayer hot dogs and is excited to hear about the expansion.

“I’m excited,” Wisniewsky said. “They’re one of the better brands.”

The project is set to begin with testing in the facility this fall and will start up in the first quarter of 2016, Hodel said. In anywhere from 18 months to two years, the project will be completely finished and in full effect.

Griggs said the project plans were originally proposed to Regional Economic Development Inc. in December of 2014.

The Oscar Mayer plant underwent the Chapter 100 application process in order to follow through with the plans. This process exists to issue bonds to companies that wish to expand, as long as they abide by certain criteria set by Boone County.

The next step in this process before construction can begin is getting approval from the Kraft Heinz board of directors. Overall, there will not be a noticeable change from the outside of the plant.

“We are grateful for the partnership of the city, county, state and Regional Economic Development,” Hodel said in an email.

Columbia will benefit from the expansion, Griggs said.

“Greater capacity means a few more trucks will be on the roads, a few more trucks will deliver products to the facility, a few more trucks will deliver tech products from the facility to distribution centers for distribution,” Griggs said.

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