Hocker, Atkins support Allen Harim plans

First appeared in the Cape Gazette, August 23, 2013

When Pinnacle Foods announced it would be closing its Vlasic pickle plant in Millsboro, we shared the concerns of its several hundred employees and local residents who worried about the impact on Sussex County's economy.

That's why we were pleased to learn of Allen Harim Foods' intention to purchase the now-closed Vlasic plant and turn it into a state-of-the-art poultry processing plant - investing $100 million, hiring 700 new employees and improving environmental technology to benefit our air and water.

When completed, this project will be a true Delaware success story - improving our economy and protecting our environment, all in one.

At a time of financial turmoil for many, the effect on Delaware's economy cannot be understated. The 700 new jobs with Allen Harim will all pay above the minimum wage and include benefits. More than 100 of those jobs will be managerial or highly skilled wage positions. These are jobs that are greatly needed in our state today.

The company will also be making major investments in the environment, above and beyond Vlasic's operations. The planned investments, including a $10 million upgrade to Vlasic's wastewater treatment system and a new exhaust air scrubbing system, will virtually eliminate odors and make the water that goes through the system cleaner than the water that comes out of the ground. This will only help improve the quality of our air and water.

Traffic concerns, while understandable, will be negligible - again, thanks in large part to Allen Harim's commitment to improving the area. Neighbors will not see a noticeable increase in truck traffic over Vlasic's peak operations, and Allen Harim will be making substantial investments in local roads to make sure safety and traffic flow are not affected, in coordination with the Delaware Department of Transportation.

We have studied Allen Harim's plans and discussed the plant with company executives and state officials, and firmly believe that the company will take every step possible to ensure that residents and the environment are not adversely affected. The plans will also have to pass through a rigorous permitting process by state agencies that are committed to protecting our health and welfare, including the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Department of Transportation. This is a fully transparent process: The public will have the opportunity to learn about the permits as the project moves forward.

We represent different political parties, but politics has nothing to do with a venture such as this. Allen Harim has proven itself to be a good corporate neighbor on Delmarva at its existing plants in Harbeson and Cordova, Md., its feed mill and hatchery in Seaford and its hatchery in Dagsboro. Its leadership and employees live in our communities, raise their children here, and are our friends and neighbors. They want to invest in improving Delaware's future, and we are pleased to support their plans in the Millsboro area.

Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-20th Senatorial District and Rep. John Atkins, D-41st Representative District