Pretzel manufacturer chooses Lawrence to house production plant

Story updated at 8:28 p.m. Oct. 6, 2020:

A snack food company has chosen Lawrence for a new production facility, economic development officials announced late Tuesday afternoon.

City commissioners will consider preliminary paperwork for a deal that will allow Pretzels Inc. to locate in VenturePark, the city’s industrial park on the eastern edge of Lawrence.

According to documents on file with City Hall, the company wants to build a 146,000-square-foot production center at Venture Park, which is just northeast of the intersection of 23rd Street and O’Connell Road.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many jobs might be located at the production plant. Pretzels Inc. is an Indiana-based company that has been in business for more than 40 years. The company makes a variety of flavored and stuffed pretzels for several private label brands and also sells pretzels under the Harvest Road brand, according to information on the company’s website.

Bonnie Lowe, president and CEO of the local chamber of commerce, said she expected the company to release details on the number of jobs and type of jobs in the near future. She said she “most definitely” expected community members to be pleased with the quality and quantity of jobs expected for the plant.

“It is a great win for the county over the next four years,” Lowe said. “There will be a considerable amount of good-paying jobs with an impressive amount of capital investment by the company.”

A document on file with the city indicates the project is expected to involve about a $24 million investment for the building.

Pretzels Inc. technically is not the company filing for City Commission approvals. Instead, Kansas City-based VanTrust Real Estate is filing for the approvals. VanTrust is the development firm that built the current building that is located at the corner of 23rd Street and O’Connell Road. That industrial building, which was built prior to finding a tenant, is partially occupied with warehouse space for Plastikon Industries. The new building for Pretzels Inc. is planned to be built next to that building.

VanTrust is asking for the project to be included in the city’s Catalyst Program, which will allow the project to receive industrial revenue bonds and other city incentives. The documents on file with the city didn’t provide details on specific incentive requests the company may seek, but in general, the Catalyst Program allows for tax abatements of 50% to 70% over a 10-year period, depending on certain details of the project.

The City Commission received the VanTrust application as part of its meeting Tuesday and will vote on the request at a future meeting.

The project is the third significant industrial project in the last month that has announced plans to locate in Douglas County. Modern Manufacturing, a company that makes components for railroads, announced plans to open a plant with about 40 jobs in Eudora. Plastikon Industries announced plans to add a new production line and about 40 jobs to its Lawrence manufacturing facility. The project will help the company produce vials for COVID-19 testing kits.

An even earlier project, though, has helped spur activity at VenturePark. Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering Metalworks announced in September 2019 that it would build a facility in VenturePark to manufacture a variety of complex parts for the heating, cooling and plumbing industries. U.S. Engineering was the first company to announce plans to locate in VenturePark, which is the site of a former nitrogen fertilizer plant that has sat empty for years as local officials have sought to redevelop it.

Lowe said she expects U.S. Manufacturing to soon announce a groundbreaking date for its project. Also look for a formal announcement this month of a pending expansion of the Bioscience and Technology Business Center on the University of Kansas’ West Campus. The BTBC houses a variety of start-up companies, and the latest project will be the second expansion for the facility.

We will provide you more information on the Pretzels Inc. project when it becomes available.


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