SYLACAUGA – Good news is coming for Blue Bell Creameries and the Marble City.
The City Council and Blue Bell have announced a $7.5 million expansion at the local plant that could add up to 18 new employees.
This week, the City Council approved a tax abatement request from Blue Bell Creameries for the construction of a new two-story facility at the corner of North Norton Avenue and Fourth Street with a total capital investment of $7,534,000.
The expansion follows a more than three-year delay following a listeria contamination. In the late winter of 2015, Blue Bell stopped production at its plants and halted sales due to the contamination.
The contamination prompted health concerns and drew the regulatory scrutiny of federal and state agencies.
Blue Bell started producing ice cream again in July 2015 and has made a comeback, which is enabling it to start its expansion.
Originally, the previous City Council on Sept. 3, 2014, granted the tax abatement. It also later granted permits for construction.
The sitting council reaffirmed its support of the tax abatement on Tuesday night and had already issued permits for construction to Blue Bell at no additional cost, Mayor Jim Heigl said.
Heigl said the expansion is welcome news.
“This means extra jobs for our people and construction for an expansion. It is only fair that the council extend the original abatement and permits,” he said.
Blue Bell plant manager Kevin Wood said the expansion is a two-story facility that will house an extra cold storage warehouse and ingredients for ice cream products. It will also include some extra working area and a truck shop.
Wood said this is a big project for Blue Bell. Work is expected to begin in April and be completed in early 2019.
Wood has been plant manager since 2006.
The Sylacauga plant produces half gallons, pints, 3-ounce cups and 3-gallon containers of the company’s many flavors, including sherbert, light and no sugar added varieties.
Currently, the plant employs some 240 employees, while Blue Bell has more than 2,500 company-wide.
Blue Bell is distributed in at least 19 states.
The Blue Bell plant has been a major part of the Sylacauga community since 1996. That is when Blue Bell purchased the old Flav-O-Rich production facility. After renovations to the facility, production started in 1997.
Hundreds of thousands have visited the plant and the Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and Country Store in Sylacauga.
The Sylacauga production facility and ice cream parlor are at 423 N. Norton Ave.