A new wholly owned subsidiary of Little Leaf Farms, LLC, an innovative producer of fresh lettuce, will build a state-of-the-art greenhouse complex in Yancey County, creating up to 100 jobs, Governor Roy Cooper announced today. The company will invest up to $86 million in Burnsville in a multi-phased planned expansion.
"North Carolina is known for innovation and agriculture. Projects like Little Leaf’s new greenhouse mean a better product and more sustainable practices to grow crops and jobs in Yancey County,” said Governor Cooper.
Little Leaf Farms, with headquarters in Devens, Massachusetts, is disrupting the traditional West Coast-dominated lettuce industry by producing and delivering high-quality leafy greens for local grocery markets at competitive prices. The company has incorporated many innovative features into its high-tech hydroponic greenhouses, including using 100 percent captured rainwater and utilizing advanced fertilization and irrigation systems that use 90 percent less water than field-grown greens. The company’s project in Yancey County will construct up to 20 acres of greenhouses, allowing it to expand its product reach into more East Coast markets. The company currently sells its products in more than 2,000 grocery stores in the northeastern United States.
“Little Leaf Farms is excited to be coming to North Carolina and Yancey County in particular,” said Paul Sellew, CEO of Little Leaf Farms. “We are proud to be both leading the transformation of our food system to higher quality and locally grown products and contributing to the local economy.”
“Although agriculture and food production are a traditional industry in North Carolina, the level of innovation we’re seeing in this sector is impressive,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “From our business-friendly economic climate to our efficient transportation networks and strong workforce, we’re confident Little Leaf Farms has selected the best place in the country for the next phase of their growth.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce led the state’s support for the company during its site evaluation and decision-making process.
Although wages will vary depending on the position, the average salary for the new jobs will reach $53,700. The average wage in Yancey County is $32,490.
Little Leaf Farm’s project in North Carolina will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over the course of the 12-year term of this grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $636 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,366,200 spread over 12 years. State payments only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company.
Because Little Leaf Farms selected Yancey County, classified by the state’s economic tier system as Tier 2, the company’s JDIG agreement also calls for moving as much as $151,800 into the state’s Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account. The Utility Account helps rural communities finance necessary infrastructure upgrades to attract future business. Even when new jobs are created in a Tier 2 county such as Yancey, the new tax revenue generated through JDIG grants helps more economically challenged communities elsewhere in the state. More information on the state’s economic tier designations is available here.
“Today’s decision by Little Leaf Farms means hard-working people in our community will find new opportunity,” said N.C. Senator Ralph Hise. “It’s great to see these new jobs come to Yancey County as well as the overall prosperity this company will bring to our region.”
Partnering with the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Community College System, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Yancey County, and the Yancey County Economic Development Commission.