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Sopakco places 440 new jobs, $85 million investment in Scotland Co. on hold

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Sopakco, Inc., a food processor and packager, notified N.C. Commerce and Scotland County they are delaying their creation of 440 new jobs and an $85 million state-of-the-art processing and packaging facility in Scotland County, according to a news release.

The release said the company cited current market conditions, supply chain, and construction costs as the primary reasons for the hold. Lonnie Thompson, President of SO-PAK-CO, stated “Having to make this decision was the right choice, but a difficult one. Costs have increased significantly since we planned this project and unfortunately Sopakco will not be expanding in the near future.

“We are not terminating all future expansions, we just can’t meet our original commitment and felt it was best to be upfront with all parties,” added Thompson.

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The new state-of-the-art facility would have been the largest single job creation in Scotland County in over 40 years.

“It’s disheartening to hear this news as we all wanted to see earth moving and jobs created for our citizens,” said Chairman Tim Ivey. “The board will continue to seek other projects and work with the SCEDC Board to market the site and our county.”

Whit Gibson, Chair of Scotland County Economic Development Corporation, said “While this isn’t the type of news we strive for, I, along with the SCEDC Board, respect all decisions companies make that are proper for their organization, employees and communities. Working and knowing SoPakCo’s leadership I know this was a decision that didn’t come easy, but based on the current economic conditions they made the choice that fits their strategic goals and plans. We thank Lonnie and this team for the interest and opportunity and we will continue to market Scotland County for the betterment of our citizens.”

The new positions would have included craftsmen, managers, operators, and administrative personnel. Salaries for the new positions would vary, with an average annual salary of more than $45,000.

The average annual wage in Scotland County was $40,894 when the project was first announced in October of 2022.

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Jim Willis, Mayor of Laurinburg stated, “Although we are disappointed in this announcement, we understand that it is a business decision driven by recent extremely high-cost increases in construction and equipment. I have spoken with Lonnie Thompson who is disappointed that his project is not moving forward in his hometown for now. Lonnie has only high praise for everyone he worked with from the recruitment process to this current news, including Scotland County EDC, Scotland County, The City of Laurinburg, NC D.O.T, and the NC Department of Commerce.” Lonnie said, “Throughout this process, North Carolina has been tremendous in their representation for their city, county and state in each and every aspect.” Mayor Willis added, “We thank SoPakCo for their interest in Laurinburg and Scotland County and hope they can follow through on their plans to locate something here in the future. We wish them all the best.”

Sopakco has not received any payment from NC Commerce or Scotland County under any grant award, the release said.

The company would have received incentives in the amount of $4.098 million JDIG, $585,000 North Carolina Community College Customized Training and up to $5.4 Million in Tax Grant from Scotland County over 15 years.

Sopakco has plants in Marlboro and Marion Counties.

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