Keurig bringing 550 jobs to Douglas County

The maker of the Keurig single-cup coffee system said Thursday it plans to build its new cold-brewed beverage maker line at a plant in Douglas County, creating about 550 jobs.

Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain will make its single-serving cold drink system at a plant in Lithia Springs, about 20 miles west of downtown Atlanta. The state and Keurig said the company will spend $337 million over five years on the project.

The announcement is a boost for manufacturing in Georgia, which saw jobs in the sector tumble by almost 40 percent from 1998 through 2010 as companies downsized or moved factory work overseas.

The number has bounced back in in the past four years, from a low of 343,000 to about 362,000 in May, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“It’s because of job announcements such as this that our unemployment rate has dropped and that there’s a resurgence in manufacturing in the United States,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in a news conference at the state Capitol.

Keurig’s ties to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, a major investor, helped Georgia win the facility. Keurig President and CEO Brian Kelley is a former Coke executive.

Keurig was offered and is eligible for tax credits for creating jobs as well as a sales and use tax exemption for machinery. The jobs tax credits alone could be worth up to $4.8 million over five years, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In February, Coke paid $1.25 billion to take a 10 percent stake in Keurig, then-known as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Under the deal, Coke can raise its investment to 16 percent of the company.

Coca-Cola products will be among the brands available in the planned Keurig Cold portfolio.

The new plant, which will make a product line still under development, will be a short drive from Coke’s world headquarters on North Avenue.

In a statement, Coke said it looks forward to collaborating with Keurig.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, which closely tracks the beverage industry, said Coke has a lot at stake in Keurig and the cold-brewed system and that “there is a great deal of interest and curiosity in the product” across the beverage industry.

Coke has been looking to grow its North American business as consumer preferences shift from sodas to products like teas, energy drinks and flavored waters. Sicher said it might take two years to five years to determine if this new program is a success.

Coca-Cola competes not only with traditional rivals such as PepsiCo, but also to an extent with companies like Sodastream, maker of an in-home carbonated beverages system.

Sicher said the Keurig deal is less about taking on Sodastream, and more about tapping into a business line that’s been popular with drinkers of hot beverages because of convenience.

“There’s both a convenience factor and a gadget factor,” Sicher said.

There also is potential for e-commerce — the sale of beverage pods via Amazon or another retailer. A pod would be much easier and less costly to ship than cans or bottles of cola, Sicher said.

Keurig is renovating a 585,000-square-foot building near Lithia Springs, and the jobs deal is welcome news for officials in Douglas County, where the unemployment rate hovers above 8 percent.

Food and beverage manufacturing is big business in Georgia, employing more than 58,000 as of May, though that number is down about 5 percent compared to May 2013, according to data from the state Department of Labor.

Staff writer Dan Chapman contributed to this article.