Ponchatoula, La.-based Elmer Chocolate is spending $40 million to expand and modernize production capacity.
The money will fund the construction of a 70,000-sq.-ft. addition to Elmer’s manufacturing plant, upping the size of its headquarters complex to a total of 400,000 sq. ft.
The expansion will not only mean that Elmer’s existing 164 employees will continue to work for the company, but the chocolate maker also will be adding 10 new direct jobs, averaging $42,500 a year in salary, along with 14 indirect jobs and 130 construction jobs.
The company’s investment in expanding the plant and purchasing new equipment will “make the company more efficient, versatile and competitive in the marketplace,” Elmer Chocolate says in a media release.
Elmer’s project is supported by a $550,000 performance-based forgivable loan from the State of Louisiana intended to fund new equipment and Elmer’s continued use of Louisiana Economic Development FastStart, a state workforce development program.
“Our expansion, right here at home, provides a unique U.S. manufacturing model that translates into highly skilled jobs for our associates and ensures the maximum level of quality control and food safety,” says Robert Nelson, Elmer Chocolate’s ceo.
“The LED FastStart program is central to helping Elmer associates learn new job skills, prepare to efficiently utilize our new technology, and increase our capacity. The net result will be new opportunities for our associates and other stakeholders.”
The company was founded in 1855 and produces chocolates, caramels, truffles and crèmes. It is the second-largest Valentine box chocolate manufacturer in North America. Headquartered in Ponchatoula for almost 50 years, Elmer receives support from local and state politicians, including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Ponchatoula Mayor Bob Zabbia and Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess.
“We are pleased that Elmer Chocolate has decided to expand its operations in Ponchatoula,” says Zabbia. “Being one of our community’s largest employers, we support and encourage their vision for staying competitive in their market. Elmer continues to be a great corporate citizen here in Ponchatoula. We appreciate their continued investment in our city.”