Twinkies are back: Hostess plant in Columbus, Ga., will reopen in July

Columbus Ledger-EnquirerApril 24, 2013 

Standing in front of a big “Welcome Back” banner, an executive for Hostess Brands said Tuesday the new company will hire up to 300 employees and reopen its Columbus plant to make Twinkies and other sweet treats.

The facility at 1969 Victory Drive, known as the Dolly Madison Bakery, is scheduled to be up and running again by July, Hostess Brands LLC Chief Executive Officer Michael J. Cramer said during a press conference at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

“Safely, you should be able to buy Twinkies by the end of July,” Cramer said. “I think we will be cranking them out here and a couple of other places around the country.”

The Columbus plant will initially employ 200 people but could create more than 300 jobs eventually, he said. The snack-cake factory had about 420 on its payroll when it closed last November. It was then that Dallas, Texas-based Hostess Brands Inc. shuttered its entire U.S. production and distribution network following a lengthy impasse with worker unions and a couple of rounds in Chapter 11 bankruptcy court.

In April, Hostess Brands Inc. sold the Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and other brands to private investment firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. for $410 million.

“This is a huge deal that we were able to land it,” said Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. “(Cramer) was just really glowing about the fact that Columbus came after them and got it.”

The mayor said returning employees to an empty plant that has been in Columbus for many years also was emotional.

“I think it’s a huge morale boost,” said the mayor who loves Zingers. “There’s something, obviously, iconic about the Hostess brand. We have a decades-long relationship with them. So the smiles were a little brighter than at most of our job announcements.”

Cramer said Columbus was chosen from 11 plants making Hostess snacks because it had a good labor force, a great community and offers for help. “We are only going to probably open four of those,” Cramer said. “It was a difficult process, but Columbus was well placed.”

At the Columbus operation, Cramer said there will be some additional jobs in packaging and logistics that didn’t exist.

“There will be some new styles, new kinds of positions that didn’t exist here before,” he said.

The state’s Quick Start program will help the company with workforce training. It will also get assistance from Georgia Department of Economic Development, Columbus Technical College, the Consolidated Government, Development Authority and other agencies.

Cramer is hoping the new company can make an impact with children going back to school. “Well into July we hope every lunch bucket will have Twinkies in them when they return to school in the fall,” he said.

Cramer couldn’t state what the hourly salaries would be for the new company but said they would be competitive.

“We are putting together a company that doesn’t exist and isn’t selling anything right now,” he said. “We will put together a pretty good package of pay and benefits.”

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the company will partner with the Georgia Department of Labor to hold a job fair to fill positions in production, sanitation, distribution, maintenance engineering and management. Lines are expected to be long at the 700 Veterans Parkway office. Applicants are encouraged to bring an updated resume and be prepared to wait.

Cramer is hopeful the new company will be in Columbus for a long time. “We have to make sure that when we get on the shelves, a product is made by people who will take pride in their work,” he said. “We will have a long history here in Columbus.”

The Columbus plant opened in 1971 and employed as many as 1,200 people about a decade ago. But staffing had fallen to around 420 by last fall. The local bakery was well-known for the sweet aromatic smell it emits to passers-by while making Twinkies, Zingers, Ding Dongs, fruit pies, doughnuts and other cake products.

The local facility had survived various rounds of bakery closures leading up to and through Hostess Brands’ first bankruptcy reorganization that began in September 2004. The company also periodically invested in production, packaging and handling equipment.

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