Appearing before the General Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, state Rep. Martha Jane King joined with Champion Petfoods leaders this morning to detail the company’s growing commitment to Kentucky.
“From the moment it decided to make Auburn home to its first facility built outside of Canada, Champion Petfoods has been a textbook example of what a first-rate company should be,” Rep. King of Lewisburg told her fellow legislators. “It is all about quality, from the second-to-none products it sells to what it does for our community and its growing workforce.”
Champion Petfoods President and CEO Frank Burdzy testified that when the company was looking for its first American location, it narrowed the list to Kentucky and about eight other states. After an initial look, that number dropped to about five.
“We understand agriculture and we understand food, and saw that Kentucky felt just as strongly as we did about this, which is why it was ultimately chosen,” he said. “The end result is a facility meeting the highest standards in the world.” In fact, he added, its food products for dogs and cats are required to meet the same guidelines as those governing baby food.
Noting that, Chris Milam, the company’s ingredient source and development leader, told legislators that the company’s products are made with a wide array of meats, plants and fruit, all in a combination designed to mimic what the animals’ diet would be in the wild.
Economically, CEO Burdzy said Champion Petfoods initially announced it would invest $85 million and hire 147 regional workers at its Auburn facility; what the company actually has done so far is invest $120 million and is on track to hire 200 people by the end of 2017. It is projecting this location will have an annual economic impact of $280 million by the end of its first decade. That work contributes to an export market reaching more than 80 different countries, with Latin America the company’s next international target.
After their presentation, several legislators praised the company’s contributions to Kentucky. State Rep. Tom McKee, the Agriculture Committee’s co-chair, said, “We really appreciate your investing here,” while state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, whose district includes Logan County, said that the company’s award-winning brand “really drives great loyalty.”
“It means so much to be able to promote this company to other legislators and to have them learn more about all of the great things happening in our region,” Rep. King said. “I’m proud to work with the company’s leaders to expand its reach even more in the commonwealth and around the world.”