The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) today announced that Welch Foods is expanding its operations in Lawton in Van Buren County, where it will create up to 57 jobs for Michigan workers.
The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $26.2 million, supported by $588,725 in Community Development Block Grant funds awarded to Van Buren County. Michigan was chosen for the project over competing sites in several other states.
“Michigan’s business climate and highly skilled workforce provide an environment where businesses like Welch’s can grow and thrive, creating good-paying jobs for Michiganders,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We’re pleased that this iconic brand has chosen to expand in Michigan, helping to continue to grow our state’s vital agribusiness industry. With the help of companies like Welch Foods, we can build back our state’s economy stronger than ever.”
Welch Foods Inc. has produced grape juices, jams, and jellies since 1869 and has had operations in Michigan since 1919. The company is experiencing increasing demand for single-serve beverages, and after reviewing its options for potential sites in different states, has made the decision to locate its new bottling line at its facility in Lawton. At least 30 of the 57 new jobs will be held by low-to moderate-income individuals in order to meet national CDBG objectives. The CDBG funds will assist with the acquisition of machinery and equipment needed for the expansion.
“Welch’s is pleased that our close partnership with UFCW Local 825 has enabled us to commit to this investment, which will support our growth, continue to bring living-wage jobs to the community, and help us make Welch’s an employer of choice in Van Buren County,” said Welch Foods Inc., Chief Supply Chain Officer Merrell Bennett. “The State of Michigan is a great place to grow, and we are grateful for the efforts of state and local officials that are helping us make this project a reality.”
In a release, MEDC officials said the project will have a large impact in a rural community and reflects the company’s long-term commitment to the area and to the state of Michigan. In addition, the project will revitalize underutilized property into food-grade production space that will allow for future growth. The investment is also important for continued relationships with Michigan growers and suppliers and to strengthen the regionally significant agribusiness industry.
“Congratulations to the entire Welch’s team on your tremendous growth and success in Southwest Michigan! We appreciate your continued vote of confidence in our state and in our agricultural and manufacturing workforce,” said Quentin Messer, Jr., CEO of the MEDC and President and Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “This project is an economic win for Van Buren County and for the entire state. We’re proud to join our local partners as we celebrate Welch’s expansion in Michigan and look forward to continuing to work together to grow and add jobs for Michigan residents.”
Van Buren County will also contribute staff time and resources in support of the project. For information on careers with Welch Foods, visit https://www.welchs.com/careers/.
“The village of Lawton is excited by Welch’s decision to expand in our community,” said Lawton Village Manager Lisa Imus. “We look forward to the new job opportunities and growth that this investment will bring to our residents and neighbors.”
“We’re thankful for our partners at the village of Lawton, Van Buren County and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation who made securing this grant for Welch Foods Cooperative possible,” said Market Van Buren Executive Director Zach Morris. “Welch’s decision to invest in Southwest Michigan is a testament to our region’s competitive advantages and local leadership’s collaborative spirit.”
A Welch’s spokesperson commented, “The Welch’s brand has been loved around the world for over 150 years. Our company is a unique one, owned by a cooperative of family farmers and built on a legacy of hard work and dedication. We’re not just about grapes. Our bold ambition is to be the leading company of convenient, good-for-you, fruit-based food and beverage globally.