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Hostess To Reopen, Expand Emporia Plant

Fri, 04/26/2013 - 10:18am
The Associated Press

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia officials are hailing Thursday's announcement by the partnership that bought Hostess Brands' snack cake lines that it will reopen the bakery in the eastern Kansas community this summer, with 250 employees to start.

More than 500 people lost their jobs when Hostess, then in bankruptcy proceedings, closed the Emporia plant last November following a strike by union bakers.

The private equity groups Apollo Global Management and Metropolis & Co. — now doing business as Hostess Brands LLC — recently paid $410 million for the rights to buy the Hostess and Dolly Madison snack cake lines as well as five plants, including the one in Emporia.

But Emporia City Commissioner Jon Geitz told KVOE-AM (http://bit.ly/p3FyTR) there had been no assurance the local bakery would reopen, so Thursday's announcement was good news.

"Having 250, 300 new employees coming in is a big win for the community," Geitz said, noting the plant and the city had been "'good partners for nearly 40 years."

Hostess Brands LLC said hiring is already underway for an initial 250 employees. The company is aiming for a total workforce of about 300 over the next several years, and the plant will be expanded. Officials hope it will start turning out Twinkies, HoHos and other Hostess mainstays by mid- to late summer.

Company spokesman Mike Cramer declined comment on whether union employees would be a part of the picture. More than 90 percent of the plant's employees at the time of the shutdown were union members.

Geitz is vice president of the Regional Development Association of Eastern Kansas, which together with Emporia Mayor Bobbi Mlynar worked to convince the new owners to reopen the plant.

In a statement issued by the company, Mlynar said the plant has been a "good corporate citizen in our community. We look forward to the same type of relationship with the new owners."

Kansas officials also worked for the reopening.

"Certainly the city and state were way out in front, trying to stay in touch, seeing what they could do to help," Cramer said.

With the plant idle since November, Cramer said a lot of work is needed to make the plant current. Besides cleaning and maintenance, the company is investing in new equipment and refurbishing existing equipment. It is also changing its packaging and shipping methods before starting to roll out cake products.

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