Steven Ceccarelli is working hard to help grow the Sampson County economy. Thursday’s grand opening celebration of Farm Fresh Produce celebrated the $3.7 million taxable investment and commitment the company has made locally.
Officials from Farm Fresh Produce invited members of the community, along with growers and vendors to the official grand opening of the Sampson County sweet potato packing plant. The new 62,400 square foot facility is located on Keener Road, just outside of Clinton.
“Today, we celebrate the strategic vision on where this company is headed,” Jerry Buczek, chief operating officer of Farm Fresh, said. “With our primary goal being to move into the domestic market, we welcome you to our grand opening.”
In addition to the new packing plant that sits on the company’s 44-acre site, the land houses a 20,000 square foot renovated building. The total project investment is estimated at $3,715,000. Additionally, the company has committed to employ 36 full-time employees at the new facility.
“Sampson County has been good to us,” Buczek shared.
According to a press release issued by the county, Farm Fresh Produce was started in Faison by Ceccarelli as a produce marketing and selling company. In its first year, the company employed six people and had approximately $12 million in sales, with approximately $10 million of those sales being in sweet potatoes.
In 2015, the company established Farm Fresh Produce Packing and started a sweet potato packing operation on Beaver Road, that is co-owned by Ceccarelli and Joe Dan Pope.
This plant employs 25 people seasonally, and ships approximately 100 to 150 containers of sweet potatoes per week from the plant. According to the release, approximately 90 percent of the sweet potatoes packed at this facility are exported, utilizing ports in Charleston, S.C. and Norfolk, Va.
“In their plans to create a new sweet potato packing plant, the company considered locating their plant in either a county in this region near the source of the potatoes or near the out-of-state port from which they would be shipped,” Susan Holder, assistant county manager, stated in the release. “Fortunately, with the assistance of the state of North Carolina, county officials were able to convince them to develop this plant here in Sampson, the state’s leading sweet potato producer.”
Earlier this year, Sampson County commissioners approved a tax incentive package for Farm Fresh Produce. The performance-based incentive agreement offers more than $70,000 in grant-back tax incentives to the company, to be distributed in gradually descending amounts from $15,019 in year one to $13,525 in year five. The county will receive the full $123,695 in tax revenue from years 6-10.
Additionally, to assist Farm Fresh Produce, Sampson County applied for and received approval for a $180,000 grant from the Building Reuse Program of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. This grant is assisting in the company’s up-fitting of the existing 20,000 square foot building to suit their packing operations.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.