WILMINGTON —Area regional Pepsi distribution facilities, including one in Hillsboro, are being relocated and consolidated in Wilmington, based on a report from Clinton County’s economic development director.
The number of G&J Pepsi employees who will work out of the Wilmington facility was not immediately available. G&J Pepsi currently has a facility on North High Street in Hillsboro. Company officials could not be reached Friday.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin said Friday that while the move was unfortunate he had been aware that company officials had been discussing such a consolidation. He said distribution companies such as Pepsi typically seek locations with easy interstate access. He said he believed the company employed 10-20 people locally, although not all of them were considered permanent in-city employees for tax purposes since they were over-the-road drivers.
According to G&J’s website, the private corporation, headquartered in Cincinnati, operates distribution centers n Hillsboro and Chillicothe, as well as Winchester and Harrodsburg, Ky.
In addition to its distribution centers, G&J Pepsi-Cola is comprised of seven production franchises which include, in Ohio, Athens, Columbus, Hamilton, Portsmouth, Ripley and Zanesville, as well as Lexington, Ky.
Clinton County Business & Economic Development Director Bret Dixon brought up the news when he gave an update Wednesday to Clinton County Commissioners on business developments.
The company distributes Pepsi brand products “as well as packages under Lipton, Ocean Spray, Starbucks, and SoBe labels as well as Cadbury (Dr. Pepper) beverages,” according to its website. The entire G&J Franchise employs over 1,600 employees and has over 300 beverage routes, the website states. The company says it is the largest family-owned and operated Pepsi franchise bottler.
Columbus Business First reported earlier this year that G&J Pepsi planned to invest $12 million in expansion in Columbus, after the city offered a tax incentive.
The company “plans to expand its production facility at 1241 Gibbard Ave.,” according to the report. “The company will spend the $12 million for building improvements, machinery and equipment, and to start a new production line to make its own plastic bottles instead of using an out-of-state vendor for bottles, according to city documents. The city is offering a five-year, 25 percent income tax credit.”
The company faced fines last year for safety violations. A U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration news release said last year that the agency had “cited G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc. for seven workplace health and safety violations, carrying proposed penalties of $86,900. OSHA initiated an inspection of the Franklin Furnace plant in July 2013 under its Site-Specific Targeting Program, which targets facilities with higher than average illness and injury rates.”
The article noted that “the same violations were cited in 2009 at the company’s Hamilton facility.”
G&J Pepsi was in the news just a few days ago when its former Lexington-based controller, James T. Hammes, was arrested following a six-year search. Hammes had been living along the Appalachian Trail under an assumed name, officials said. Accused of embezzling nearly $9 million, Hammes was the subject of various “most wanted” media profiles in recent years.
After the company initially questioned him in 2009, “authorities say Hammes soon disappeared, leaving behind a wife who would later divorce him and his daughter,” according to the Associated Press.
In another item reported by Dixon, U.S. Air Force veterans may become more common in the area as workforce development officials try to secure workers for Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) at the Wilmington Air Park.
Dixon spoke about the prospect of AMES recruiting experienced Air Force airplane mechanics and offering them a two-week class that would make them eligible to take the airframe and powerplant test and earn an A & P license to work at AMES.
“That’s a big deal,” said Dixon, adding that the approach to an A & P license would be quicker and less expensive than through traditional educational means.
AMES expanded its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations in Wilmington when a while back it opened a new 100,000 square foot hangar able to accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 777.
Of a longer-term possibility about which Dixon has begun meeting with people in Cincinnati, he said he is exploring a potential rail strategy — here to the Ohio River — that would tie in with a larger transportation network that would make use of the new Panama Canal when it opens.
The canal opening is anticipated to change the course of some China trade, which could be “kind of a game changer in terms of transportation,” said Dixon.
Dixon said he doesn’t want area businesses involved in export and import to be “left out” of the potential strategy.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger. Gary Abernathy contributed to this story.