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Wise welcomes new soda plant

November 11, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

RANSON - At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon for a soda distribution plant, Gov. Bob Wise perused the free drinks offered, but did not see his favorite - Diet Rite.

He grabbed a bottle of water instead.

Wise was one of about 20 people who attended the ribbon-cutting for Royal Crown Bottling Co.'s warehouse on W.Va. 115 just outside Ranson.

Countless cases of soda and other drinks are kept at the warehouse before they are delivered to stores in a 13-county region, said owner Scott Bridgeforth, of Winchester, Va. The soda is bottled at a facility in Winchester.

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Tightening warehouse space at the Winchester plant and a Hagerstown facility that has closed forced Bridgeforth to find more land, he said. Jefferson County was attractive because it is in the middle of the area the company serves, he said.

Wise said the facility is the type he hopes will continue coming to West Virginia.

"Come here and look at it. It's great," he said, walking away a bit to see the entire building. "It's distinctive. It's a very welcome addition."

Although the company cannot offer a lot of jobs, those that are available pay well, and it's a clean industry, Wise said.

Thirty-five employees work at the warehouse, with the average full-time employee making around $35,000 to $40,000 annually, including benefits, Bridgeforth said. Some employees transferred from the Hagerstown plant, which was incorporated into the new warehouse.

Inside the cavernous building, employees loaded cases of drinks onto pallets, then used a forklift to load them onto delivery trucks.

The 100,000-square-foot facility cost $3.5 million to build. Of that money, $1.5 million was provided by a state Economic Development Authority loan. The facility opened in July.

Holding scissors to cut a ribbon by the warehouse's front doors, Wise surveyed the farmland surrounding the building.

"This has completely changed the tone and tenor of this immediate area," Wise said.

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