Emporia is the place to be, it seems, after Gov. Sam Brownback visited Thursday to cut the ribbon on Hostess Brands, and later, to drink the water.
“What a great day in Emporia, where we have the best water in the world, and we’re bringing back the Twinkie,” Brownback said at the Bowyer Building, where he stopped to drink Emporia’s award-winning water with the community after attending the Hostess ceremony earlier in the afternoon. “You’ll be able to hold up a cool glass of high-quality-best-in-the-world Emporia water, tinkling with the ice in there. At the same time, it’s a great mixture. You’ve got this great water, and this great snack food.”
During the ribbon-cutting, Hostess Brands President Rich Seban was on hand to deliver the company’s new theme: “We are making the sweetest comeback in the history of ever.”
“We are preparing the comeback of an iconic brand: Hostess, and we couldn’t be prouder,” Seban said. “The people of the United States have reached out. You’ve seen the publicity, you’ve seen the articles, you’ve seen the press that we’ve received when we went out, and we’re really excited to be able to capitalize on that and really go through the relaunch.”
Workers, albeit non-unionized, returned to the baking facility and operations have resumed, Seban said. The facility in Emporia will produce a full assortment of Hostess products, including Twinkies, Cup Cakes, HoHos and Ding Dongs.
The Emporia plant has continuously been a critical piece in relaunching Hostess, and because of that, the Emporia plant will be Hostess’ flagship bakery, according to the company’s leadership.
“The plant was here, and this is a great plant,” said Michael Cramer, executive vice president for Hostess. “The workforce is here, and it’s in a great location geographically in the center of the country. You already have a facility that, while it was not invested in as it should have been over the past several years, it had a great base, and it was fairly easy for us to invest and put equipment back into this plant.”
The company has promised to initially add 250 jobs to the local economy and plans to create a total of more than 300 jobs in the community within the next several years.
“It’s great news for Hostess and it’s great news for this community,” Seban said. “Our strong partnership strengthens our company, and provides a strong economic engine for this community for the long term.”
The investment in the Emporia baking facility is being funded by affiliates of Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co., which purchased selected Hostess assets out of bankruptcy in April.
At that point, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union had gone on strike, citing poor management and frozen pension funds as the reason.
After the company liquidated, Apollo and Metropoulos stepped in. The new company expressed confidence in May that the thousands of out-of-work union members would find opportunity at the reopened facilities.
“We will rehire everyone who applies through the agency with no issues and no discrimination against anyone,” Cramer said. “Today, we’re trying to revel in the fact that we are bringing in all these employees and opening this plant. That’s the key for us.”
Cramer said everyone of the plants has established a procedure for hiring people, and that all former Hostess employees are being rehired if they apply.
“We’re a brand new company, and we didn’t even have employees until two months ago,” he said. “Because there’s no employees, there’s no union contract. We don’t have any relationship pro or con because there is no union here.”
Cramer said the first 30 to 50 people who were hired on were former workers at the bakery.
The Emporia community was the first to contact Hostess to urge the company to reopen the facility and rehire workers.
“Emporia was the first and the most aggressive by far,” said Cramer.
Brownback cited the economic importance of have the facility open again in Emporia.
“The new group coming in is going to invest money in the plant, and the old group had not,” he said. “It’s going to be the flagship plant. They have put a lot of money in, and this is going to be their flagship, so I look for them to continue investing in this property.”
The governor said he used to eat more Twinkies than he does now, but he is looking forward to having one this summer.