GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Mar-Jac poultry company is pressing ahead with a planned 156,000-square-foot expansion of its Gainesville, Ga., plant by requesting annexation and proper zoning.
The company, which announced the $171 million expansion in October, is looking to annex 3.7 acres at 1010 Aviation Blvd., or part of property belonging to the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
The new building would connect to existing Mar-Jac operations at 1020 Aviation Blvd.
The company, which now employs 1,200-1,250 workers, could end up hiring another 125, said Mulham Shbeib, the company’s chief financial officer, speaking to the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority in October.
New automation technology and robotics could cut down on the need to hire many additional employees in certain areas, such as shipping and packaging.
“Right now, we have a lot of human involvement,” Shbeib said, speaking to the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority.
Projected job numbers are not mentioned in Gainesville planning documents.
The request is set to go before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board. In addition to annexation, Mar-Jac is seeking zoning change from light industrial in Hall County to heavy industrial in Gainesville.
The board will make a formal recommendation to Gainesville City Council, which will take final action later.
Mar-Jac is seeking annexation to connect to city sewer, according to planning documents.
The new building would feature processing and freezer space and would be “similar in architecture as the existing metal and concrete masonry building,” documents state.
Truck access is proposed from Aviation Boulevard, which is also home to Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport and next to Queen City Boulevard/Ga. 60.
With the expansion, the plant will go from slaughtering 2.2 million chickens per week to 3.4 million, Shbeib said.
“We’re real excited about this project,” he said. “We think it has a lot of value.”
Mar-Jac, which describes itself online as a “a fully integrated poultry processor committed to the foodservice industry,” has acquired 4 acres for the project and is “in the process of getting” another 15 acres from the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Susan Sports, the department’s spokeswoman, confirmed as much.
“We’re pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-community, so we’re working with (Mar-Jac) and we’re going to relocate somewhere in the Gainesville area,” she said. “We’re looking for a suitable location. We’re not going to have to downsize. We’re going to keep all the employees and continue to offer all the services that we offer now.”
The Drivers Services location is relatively new, opening in 2019 to replace an aging center.
Sports didn’t have a timetable for the move. Shbeib said the expansion would play out over the next 3-5 years.
In October, the development authority voiced support for Mar-Jac’s project, approving an “inducement resolution.”
The resolution is one of the initial steps in Mar-Jac issuing industrial development bonds through the authority, said Tim Evans, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development.