September 19, 2013

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) today joined Governor Bill Haslam, Covington Mayor David Gordon, Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman, and Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty in welcoming a $108 million expansion of Unilever Manufacturing in Covington. Unilever’s North American President Kees Kruythoff, Vice President Jon Strechan, Vice President Ale Bellini and Supply Leader of the Covington Facility Larry Gibson were on hand to make the announcement at the Tipton County plant in Covington.

The expansion is expected to create approximately 428 new full-time jobs at the Covington facility over a four-year period. Upon completion of the project, Unilever expects to have a workforce of nearly 1,000 employees in Covington.

In his remarks Norris recalled a meeting between himself, Gibson, community leaders and Southwest Community College Director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education John Churchill last year regarding the need for skilled labor. Those talks resulted in the college integrating industrial readiness training, logistics, and process controls into their curriculum. It also resulted in the passage of the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP), sponsored by Norris and Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) and supported by Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington), which enables job training to be compensated without interfering with the student’s financial assistance.

“What a difference a year makes,” said Leader Norris. “The changes implemented have enabled us to further strengthen our ability to meet the needs of companies like Unilever with a skilled workforce equipped for the 21st Century workplace. We’ve added a modern higher education component to address what Tennessee employers keep asking for: job candidates with the requisite skills needed in today’s technologically-advanced workplace.”

“I want to thank Governor Bill Haslam and his Administration not only for supporting this expansion, but for your vision in understanding the need in economic development to invest in workforce development. I also want to thank Mayors Gordon and Huffman, the Covington Board of Aldermen and Tipton County Commission, for their hard work and support,” he added.

Southwest Tennessee Community College was recently selected to receive millions of additional dollars under three new workforce training grants.

“Unilever has a Twitter page,” Norris continued. “On it, it says, Unilever is a business where talented individuals can go as far and as fast their ambition and ability take them. Thanks to all of you, Tennessee is now a state where talented Tennesseans can go as far and as fast their ambition and ability take them, too.”

Unilever is the world’s third-largest consumer goods company and the world’s largest maker of ice cream. The company generated sales of $68 billion in 2012 and the company has 400 brands spanning 14 categories, primarily in homecare, personal care, food, and refreshment products. Unilever products are sold in more than 190 countries. Unilever employs approximately 173,000 people worldwide, more than 10,000 people in the US and more than 500 in Covington, Tennessee.

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