City leaders are beaming with excitement after Flowers Foods announced Thursday it will invest $25 million to turn its Lynchburg bakery into an organic facility, creating 15 new jobs.

The project is expected to be complete by late summer. The bakery, which has been in operation for 40 years, is on Hollins Mill Road in Lynchburg.

Marjette Upshur, director of economic development in Lynchburg, said supporting the retention and expansion of existing businesses is the number one priority of the department’s economic development efforts.

“The city of Lynchburg and the Office of Economic Development & Tourism have been working hand in hand with Flowers and the Commonwealth of Virginia to make this announcement a reality,” she said. “This Flowers’ investment will not only increase production for new and growing markets for the company, but the city of Lynchburg and its citizens are stronger because companies like Flowers choose to grow here. We are proud to support their investment in our city to retain and increase jobs available to our citizens.”

In a news release Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam said the bakery is an institution in Lynchburg.

“Focusing the bakery on the growing market for organic food will help secure its future in Virginia. The food processing industry has blossomed both in Lynchburg and in our Commonwealth, and we are proud to support Flowers Foods as they grow and prosper here.”

Northam approved a $250,000 performance-based grant to assist Lynchburg with the project. The company also is eligible for additional state benefits.

Allen Branscome, general manager of Flowers Baking Company in Lynchburg, said he is excited to have the opportunity to expand the bakery and begin producing Dave’s Killer Bread, which he said is the number one best-selling organic, whole grain bread.

The bread is produced in other locations across the country but the expansion in Lynchburg will be specifically for producing this bread, he said.

“We’re really excited,” he said. “The deciding factor for the expansion in Lynchburg was our local workforce. We have a very stable workforce with a lot of employees who have been here for a long time.”

He did not know how many employees Flowers has in Lynchburg.

Megan Lucas, CEO of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, said Flowers is a strong corporate citizen that has been committed and engaged in the region for years.

She added the capital investment and new job creation is great for the Lynchburg region.

“We were thrilled to be part of the dynamic economic development team that worked [on] this competitive project led by Marjette Upshur,” she said. “Business retention and expansion is a critical role of regional economic development expanding the tax base and generating jobs for our neighbors is a positive thing and communicates to the growing companies that the Lynchburg region is the ideal location.”

Thomasville, Georgia-based Flowers Foods operates 46 bakeries in 18 states and has more than 9,700 employees. Its brands include Dave’s Killer Bread, Nature’s Own, Wonder and Tastykake. Alexander said the expansion is a result of increased demand for the Dave’s Killer Bread organic brand.

At-large city council member Beau Wright said the announcement of the investment and creation of 15 new jobs is exciting for the economic future of the community and the continued health and vitality of the Bedford Avenue and Hollins Mill Road corridor.

“Anyone who’s driven Hollins Mill Road and Bedford Avenue knows the sweet smell of freshly baked bread from the Flowers Bakery,” he said. “I can remember smelling it every day on my way to school through the bus windows, so warm and buttery you could practically taste the bread. Lynchburg’s remarkable growth over the past twenty years, thanks to home-grown startups, companies that have relocated here, and established partners like Flowers Foods increasing their local investment, points to one conclusion: Lynchburg remains a great place to do business.”

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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