McKee Foods Expands in Collegedale

Food Manufacturing

Location:

Collegedale

Hamilton, Tennessee

Employees:

2,798

McKee Foods, maker of Little Debbie snack cakes and cookies, is an integral part of Hamilton County’s existing business network. McKee Foods is more than a manufacturer of nostalgic childhood snacks, they’re a top employer in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

McKee has been an icon in Hamilton County’s business community since 1934. Recently, they’ve set themselves apart for encouraging a healthy lifestyle through a corporate wellness initiative that encourages employees to be active. Sponsoring the Chattanooga Ironman is yet another example of McKee’s commitment to community wellness.

In 2019, McKee Foods began considering an expansion of their operations and they had a difficult choice to make. Which well-loved community would they expand in? While headquartered in Collegedale, Tennessee, McKee also has more than 1,500 employees in Benton County, Arkansas which is also home to Walmart’s corporate headquarters. McKee Foods had previously experienced the Chattanooga Chamber’s support for existing businesses while working through a regulatory issue, employee training needs and prior expansions, so they reached out to Steve Hiatt the Director of Existing Business in Chattanooga. 

Hiatt helped make the business case for Hamilton County by pulling together leaders from TVA, the State of Tennessee, EPB, the City of Collegedale and Hamilton County to create an aggressive incentive package. This inter-organizational partnership’s innovative approach and competitive incentive package encouraged McKee Foods to locate their expansion in Hamilton County.  This was not an easy task considering McKee’s extensive investments in Gentry, Arkansas.

Over a 15-year period, McKee Foods has agreed to invest more than $500 million in capital projects, including expansion of the Apison plant to include new production lines, and additional investment in its other Collegedale facilities. The company has also committed to 125 new jobs created in the first seven years of the project. Over the course of the entire project, the company expects to create 480 new jobs. McKee Foods employs about 3,000 people in its Tennessee operations today.

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