08/10/07 — Butterball will move its offices to Garner

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Butterball will move its offices to Garner

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 10, 2007 1:46 PM

The announcement that Butterball, the nation's largest turkey producer, will relocate its corporate headquarters from Mount Olive to Garner in spring 2008 came as no surprise Thursday morning when the news was made public.

"I think we all knew they were looking in that direction," Mount Olive Town Manager Charles Brown said. "It really doesn't affect their operations here in Mount Olive, the plant itself. It's basically where they place their corporate offices. I think a lot of reasons made them choose Garner."

The move comes a year after Wayne County-based Carolina Turkeys -- majority owned by the family of Goldsboro Milling President Gordon Maxwell -- purchased the 50-year-old Butterball brand from ConAgra Foods for $325 million, creating the largest turkey producer in the United States with more than 1.4 billion pounds processed each year.

It's a move that has been in works since shortly after the Butterball brand was purchased.

However, Butterball President and CEO Keith Shoemaker emphasized that the decision was not a reflection on Mount Olive.

"There's multiple issues," he said.

Really, he explained, it came down to the fact that they just need a larger office closer to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

"It wasn't a slight to Mount Olive. I have seven presidents and vice presidents who report directly to me, and all of them are in different offices and all of us travel every week -- mostly by regular airline. We don't own a corporate jet. We're just like everybody else. So what we looked at was how best to maximize our time together when we're not traveling," Shoemaker said. "It's hard to manage a $1.4 billion company over the telephone. This will help make us a better company."

He also acknowledged that by moving closer to the Triangle, he's hoping to be able to take advantage of a much larger pool of potential employees.

"It will be easier for us to attract employees to the Triangle area," he said. "And we're not short on jobs. What we need is more qualified people applying for the positions we have open."

And, Brown said, while the move is disappointing, he understands the rationale.

"Obviously we would have loved to have had them in Mount Olive and Wayne County, but we just didn't have a dog we could put in that fight. The things they were looking for at this point time, we simply couldn't provide," he said.

A big factor in the decision, he feels, is the matter of housing for that many high-paying corporate jobs.

"We're kind of in the chicken or the egg stage here in Wayne County. Industry and people placing corporate headquarters are looking for development," he said. "Industry is waiting on the housing to come and the housing is waiting on the industry to come, and we're a few years away from being able to handle something like that here.

"But I feel like the county, Goldsboro and Mount Olive are all headed in the right direction."

The move will create more than $12 million in investment in Garner's Greenfield North business park.

The new 12-acre, 46,000 square-foot office complex will not only eventually house 100 corporate and executive-level management jobs from across the country -- at an average salary of more than Wake County's $694 a week average -- but it also will feature interactive presentations about the history of the company and a demonstration kitchen.

However, Shoemaker said, the local effect of the move should be minimal as Butterball will maintain, and even add more than 100 positions to its offices in Mount Olive, its satellite offices in Goldsboro and, of course, its 2,500-person processing plant in Duplin County.