Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ajinomoto Windsor executives joined local and state officials in the announcement and ground breaking for a $20 million expansion at the Oakland plant that will create 60 jobs. Shown spreading the dirt with the ceremonial shovels are (from left) District 33 Representative Tommy Reynolds, Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association CEO Brad Robison, MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, District 14 Senator Lydia Graves Chassaniol, Ajinomoto Windsor Chief Executive Officer Bernard Kreilmann,

Plant expansion will bring 60 more jobs to Oakland

By David Howell
The North Mississippi Herald
OAKLAND – State and local officials joined Ajinomoto Windsor executives to announce a new rice production line that will create 60 new jobs at the Oakland plant. The announcement was made during a press conference and ground breaking ceremony at the plant last Wednesday.

The long-anticipated expansion marks the third since the company started production in 2008, and the first following the 2014 purchase of the plant, formerly known as Windsor Foods, by Ajinomoto Co., Inc., a worldwide leader in high-quality seasonings and foods headquartered in Tokyo. The $20 million investment for the new line indicates Ajinomoto’s commitment to the Oakland plant as Ajinomoto Windsor President CEO Bernard Kreilmann reported the project is a milestone for his company’s development since Ajinomoto acquired Windsor.

“Our mission is to create better lives globally by contributing significant investments in food and health,” Kreilmann told the packed room during the press conference prior to the ground breaking. “Our goal is to be one of the top 10 food companies worldwide, this step today is a major milestone in these ambitions we have.”
Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) Executive Director Glenn McCullough touted the strong business partnership between Mississippi and Japan.

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“Japan invests more capital in the State of Mississippi than any other country on earth,” McCullough stated during his turn at the podium.  “The people in Japan and the people in Mississippi share values and no where is that more evident than here at Ajinomoto Windsor – where they produce foods that are world quality, world class.”

McCullough also credited strong teamwork starting with Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, and countless state, federal  and local officials, working hand-in-hand for the expansion. McCullough said the 60 new jobs are part of MDA’s goal to create 7,000 new careers in Mississippi in 2016.

Ajinomoto Windsor Food VP of Operations Steve Charles followed McCullough at the podium, recounting the nine-year journey since he first came to the plant when Windsor spent $15 million to convert the 140,000 square-foot facility from a raw processing plant to a frozen food plant.

“Ajinomoto Windsor is very appreciative of the support we have received from the city of Oakland, Yalobusha County and the state of Mississippi since we began our journey together in 2007,” Charles stated. “When I showed up here, I saw promise in the area, the plant and the people,” Charles continued, adding that he may have taken a risk in his career when he reached out to initially convince ownership of the potential. Charles also acknowledged the plant has experienced ups and downs, “but I think we have been great corporate partners for the community.”

After recognizing the company executives in the packed room, Charles extended his gratitude for the 310 employees currently working at the plant.

“Those folks make it go, running a factory is a lot of team effort. Without our employees we couldn’t make it happen and certainly couldn’t expand.”

“We look forward to growing with you in the future,” Charles added.

The Big Picture
Last week’s announcement marks the third expansion since Windsor Foods purchased the lease in mid-2007 on the facility and 33 acres. Production started almost a year later with 210 employees and has grown to over 300 as Windsor Foods invested $9 million for an expansion in 2010 and another $3 million in 2013, as a bakery was added to produce 1.6 million pounds of egg roll shells annually.

In addition to the $20 million commitment from Ajinomoto Windsor for the latest expansion, the project also includes a $200,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a $500,000 Community Block Development Grant from Mississippi and a $100,000 ACE grant from MDA. Yalobusha County also kicked in $50,000 in matching money for the grants.