By Anita Tucker

Global Food Group announced last week that it is bringing part of its operations to Clinton.

Robbie Brown, Global Performance Group president, said that within five years, the food processor and manufacturer will employ 224 at its Clinton plant, which is the old Volex building. He would not say how many employees the company would need when it first opens. Others have put that number at 60.

"We’re excited about the workforce in Van Buren County and very proud to be in Clinton," Brown told the 90 or so people gathered to hear the announcement.

Brown said renovations at the plant will take several weeks and the facility should be operational by the end of summer.

The company will invest $4.7 million in the facility and the state will provide a $2.5 Community Development Block Grant as well as sales-tax refunds on some items and an income-tax credit.

Gov. Mike Beebe was scheduled to be on hand for the Feb. 20 announcement, but he had to cancel due to illness.

Grant Tennille of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission filled in for Beebe.

Tennille said the governor is "absolutely confident" it is a good deal for the state.

"It is more than 200 jobs in an area that needs the jobs," he said. "It is a good, strong Arkansas company … that is wanting to expand and reinvest here in Arkansas."

Tennille noted that it was time Clinton received some good news. The Van Buren County town was devastated by a tornado in 2005 that destroyed a boat factory and in 2008, Pilgrim’s Pride, the only other manufacturing facility in the county, closed its Clinton facility.

"Clinton has had more than its share of setbacks," Tennille said. Unemployment last year in Van Buren County was above 9 percent, he said.

Global Food Group manufactures and repackages a large number of products, including frozen breaded chicken strips and mushrooms, corn dogs, panini and waffle potatoes. The company provided an array of its foods for a reception following the announcement.

Global Food Group is a subsidiary of Cabot-based Global Performance Group. Its products will be carried locally by Thriftway and Cravens grocery stores.

After weeks of renovations, the Clinton facility is expected to be running by August. Global is buying the building from Van Buren County for the same price the county paid when it bought it from Ozark Health — $775,000, according to County Judge Roger Hooper. The Ozark Health offices currently in the building will be relocated.

"Today’s celebration has been a year and a half in the making," Hooper told the crowd. He said Global initially made contact with Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie, who called him about the project. The two of them then got Peter Giovannini, Van Buren County Economic Development director, involved, Hooper said.

In his address, Rorie said he had known Beebe for a number of years and the governor kept telling him to "bring me something I can help you with." Rorie said when he talked with the governor about Global, Beebe said, "That’s something I can help you with."

Giovannini said the jobs will pay $12 per hour.