California packaging company to bring about 175 job, $7.3M investment to Jasper County

April 7, 2011 

Be Green Packaging, a manufacturer of compostable packaging materials, plans to create at least 175 jobs and invest at least $7.3 million in the next five years to establish its first domestic plant near Ridgeland, company and government officials announced Thursday.

The announcement came after Jasper County Council huddled in a specially called closed session and unanimously approved the deal, previously code-named "Project Rose," that calls for the county to provide tax benefits and other incentives to the company.

Be Green, which turns pulp into packaging for customers such as Whole Foods and Gillette, will move into an existing 90,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by a manufactured housing producer on 27 acres at 4427 Grays Highway in the Cypress Ridge business park, the officials said.

Eighty-five of the new jobs will pay at least $13.48 an hour, said Kim Statler, executive director of the Lowcountry Economic Network, which recruits businesses to the region and worked with the company.

Be Green plans to organize a job fair and will move only one person from its California headquarters, according to a news release. It will start posting job information on its website -- www.begreenpackaging.com -- on April 30.

The company will begin installing equipment and preparing the building in the next two months, according to the release. It plans to begin manufacturing there in the first quarter of 2012.

The company, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., has two factories in China but seeks to do more manufacturing in the United States, according to its website. It is growing fast and will strive to support local farmers and employ local residents, company officials said.

Co-founder and CEO Ron Blitzer said crops and byproducts grown in the region will be used in the company's products. Many of those products are made from bulrush, a plant that grows wild across the northern hemisphere.

"Be Green Packaging felt this region and especially South Carolina, which has a long and rich tradition in the paper and pulping industries, would be ideal for this 21st century business," Blitzer said in the release. "The people of this state have the heritage, backgrounds and experience that will provide our company with the skills and resources for producing products made from sustainable plant fibers."

Be Green considered locations in Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana before choosing Jasper County based on its relative proximity to ports in Charleston and Savannah and the welcome the company received from local officials, said David Brown, a longtime friend of Blitzer's. Brown represented Be Green at the announcement and also is president of Southern Lifestyle Properties of Hilton Head Island.

The deal calls for Jasper County to forego about $240,000 in property taxes over 20 years, Statler said. Jasper and Beaufort counties are in the process of designating the park a multi-county industrial park, which allows governments to provide such benefits under state law.

The company could've sought an even greater reduction in its taxes under the law but will instead direct that money to an education program intended to teach area students about the packaging business, Statler said.

Palmetto Electric Cooperative will provide $800,000 to improve the property under a separate law that allows utilities to claim credits against license taxes in exchange for aiding economic development.

Be Green also could be eligible for statutory tax credits the state offers companies that create new jobs, network officials said.

Jasper County Council members expressed gratitude to the company.

"We thank you for loving South Carolina like we love it," Councilman Henry Etheridge told Brown after the vote. "We just thank you from the bottom of our heart."

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