The executive director of the Boone County Economic Development Corp. says plans announced by Massachusetts-based Ken’s Foods Inc. to invest $90 million into a new facility in the Lebanon Business Park are a "game changer." Molly Whitehead says the company will build a 320,000 square-foot manufacturing and distribution center and expects to create up to 150 jobs.

The company will break ground on the facility this fall. The plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2017 and when it is at full capacity, will be able to produce between 150 and 200 million pounds of dressings, sauces and marinades.

Whitehead says the decision to build the facility in Lebanon was driven by the company’s need for rail service. Earlier this month, Lebanon Business Park received the CSX Select Site designation, which covers 250 acres in the park that could be directly served by rail. 

"I think it bodes well for us that, even before that site select program was fully announced, that we were already generating leads from it," said Whitehead. "Now that it’s completely done, I do anticipate that we will see more opportunity as a result of that program."

Whitehead says the investment also helps establish the community as a food and beverage hub. "We now have several food and beverage-related manufacturers and distribution companies in the Lebanon Business Park and it’s definitely an area we’re interested in growing. Certainly, I think Ken’s has seen that’s it’s a good place, geographically, to locate and I think other companies will see the same."

The Lebanon City Council Monday approved more than $4 million in real and personal property tax abatement over four years. Ken’s Foods has three other facilities in Massachusetts, Nevada and Georgia.

Boone County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Molly Whitehead calls the announcement a “huge win.”