Frito-Lay to build Harford plant Chip maker's move here could mean 500 jobs.

May 20, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

Frito-Lay, Pepsico Inc.'s snack food division, plans to build a major manufacturing and distribution plant in Aberdeen.

The new plant would add as many as 500 jobs, company officials said today.

"This is a major victory for the state of Maryland," said Warren T. Hartenstine, who chairs Harford County's economic development advisory board. "It is a significantly visible company on a national scale," he said.

The Frito-Lay plant will be built on land purchased from a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. subsidiary, The KMS Group Inc. Company officials said the operation would supply all major markets in the Northeast.

The plant, to cover 235,000 square feet, is supposed to be completed by mid-1992, officials said. It will stand on a 40-acre site at U.S. 40 and Md. 715 and will become the first project in what is to be called the Hickory Ridge Industrial Park.

Construction will begin in July, Frito-Lay officials said.

Harford's "outstanding quality work force" and its "fast-track" permit program that speeds up the local permitting process were the main reasons that the company chose the county for the plant, said Gary Feil, a regional vice president for manufacturing with Frito-Lay. Proximity to Interstate 95 and rail access also were important, he said.

"We're on a very aggressive [construction] schedule," said Feil, who announced the plan in Baltimore today along with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Harford County officials and others.

Schaefer said Frito-Lay's plan was a coup for Harford and for Maryland during a recession, when so much of the economic news is bad.

Feil added that the Harford plant was needed to meet increased demand for Frito-Lay products in the region. He declined to talk about specific sales figures in the region.

The plant is to be "highly automated," Feil said. "But we know that the plant can't run on just automation. It needs people and highly skilled technicians," he said.

County officials said the company also had been looking at a site in Delaware to build the plant. Frito-Lay has 40 other manufacturing plants in 22 other states, including three in Pennsylvania.

"We have positioned ourselves for this type of job-intensive industry through our local efforts and our partnerships with the county and the state," said Aberdeen Mayor George Englesson.

Frito-Lay, which makes Lay's potato chips, Fritos corn chips, Doritos tortilla chips and other products, has nearly 50 percent of the $12 billion salty snack food market, said Edward Eyring, an analyst with Argus Research in New York. Frito-Lay had $5 billion in sales in 1990 and nearly $1 billion in profits, Eyring said.

The salty snack market is considered separately from markets for other snacks, such as cookies.

Frito-Lay employs 26,000 people nationwide.

Hartenstine said state economic development officials and Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann worked hard in securing the Frito-Lay plant. He added that it was a significant step toward revitalizing Maryland's manufacturing sector.

Harford, with its moderate land prices and its access to major transportation routes, has done well in attracting warehousing and distribution operations. The Frito-Lay plant would be the second major manufacturing facility planned for the county during the past year.

Clorox Co., maker of laundry bleach, broke ground in March on a $75 million, 360,000-square-foot production and distribution plant in Perryman. The plant, to be operational by 1995, is expected to provide 100 jobs and an annual payroll of about $4 million.

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