Allen Harim, a Korean-based poultry processing company, announced Monday that it is in negotiations to expand with the acquisition of the former Pinnacle Foods-Vlasic processing facility in Millsboro.
The company, which operates poultry processing facilities in Harbeson and has its corporate office in Seaford, will use the plant for poultry processing, cut-up and cooking operation.
The deal, which is being ironed out between Allen Harim, the state's agriculture department and the Delaware Economic Development Office, could bring an estimated 700 jobs to Sussex County, Allen Harim officials said.
Pinnacle Foods announced in May 2012 that it would be closing its Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro at the end of the year, leaving hundreds of people out of work.
"We are excited about bringing Millsboro into our family," said Gary E. Gladys, the company's chief executive officer. "The new facility will expand our processing capacity, allow us to introduce new products and hire more employees. This will have a significant economic impact in Delaware and serve as a symbol of our deep commitment to the United States market with an investment of an estimated $100 million."
The company employs about 1,400 people and works with about 270 independent growers, and 25 company-owned farms, company officials said.
"The poultry industry is the backbone of Delaware's agriculture economy, and Harim is now making it stronger," said Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, who first introduced the idea of purchasing the plant to Harim executives. "Our poultry growers will have more opportunity; our workers will have more jobs and our state will sell more chicken, helping cement Sussex County's position as the No. 1 broiler-producing county in the nation."
Allen Harim purchased the former Allen's in September 2011, which operated in Sussex County for 92 years before filing bankruptcy two years ago.
Company officials said the new facility is expected to begin operations by November 2014.
"This new facility will help us expand into new markets as we continue to operate our existing processing plants and continue our strong relationship with our growers," said Gladys. "We believe that our base on the Delmarva Peninsula provides a solid foundation for future growth, and this facility fits into that strategy."
The governor also expressed his support for the acquisition.
"We are pleased by this important expansion by Harim Group in Sussex County," said Gov. Jack Markell. "This decision strengthens Harim's commitment to Delaware, and it helps many Delawareans in Sussex County who want to work for this growing company."