September 22, 2004

Ellen Qualls

Marc Fry
Universal Food & Beverage Co., Inc.
(630) 615-9888
Jill Vaughan
(804) 371-0049
-Company to create 151 new jobs with $6.9 million expansion-

RICHMOND - Governor Mark R. Warner today announced a $6.9 million expansion of Universal Food and Beverage Company, Inc. in Grayson County that will provide 151 new jobs to residents of Southwest Virginia. Universal Food and Beverage Company, Inc., a newly formed company, is acquiring Grayson Springs Water from Independence Water Group, LLC. The bottled water facility has not been in production since early 2003. Universal plans a significant expansion to the facility as well as to the products it will offer.

Virginia successfully competed with Georgia, Ohio and Wisconsin for the project. But the company decided Virginia had one resource that the competing states couldn’t top: Grayson County’s large-capacity, high-quality aquifer. While the competing states had the facilities and the equipment, Virginia offered the company cost savings in its processing efforts by spouting pure water.

“Universal Food and Beverage Company and Grayson County are a perfect match,” said Governor Warner. “The company tapped into a Southwest Virginia locality that can meet all of its specialized production needs: a supportive business climate, an energized work force, and the natural resources needed to produce a superior product.”

Universal Food and Beverage Company was established as a developer and producer of “value-added” non-carbonated beverages in various packaging types. These beverages target specific health and nutrition needs of adolescents, teens, young adults, adults and seniors. The products are shelf-stable and encompass vitamin-enhanced waters through nutriceuticals and other medical products. One of the company’s most recent projects was providing water to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the Hurricane Charley victims in Florida. The company is headquartered in Naperville, Ill.

“The source of Grayson Springs water is one of the finest natural water sources in the country,” said Universal Food and Beverage Company President Marc R. Fry. “Several years ago, an international panel chose Grayson Springs as one of the top natural waters in the world. We intend to bring Grayson Springs Mountain Water back into international competition. We also have been fortunate to find Grayson Springs with the added benefit of a high-quality workforce. We have taken the time to investigate the potential work force including interviewing former employees and we are confident that the employee base is one of the strongest. Additionally, the county and the state have been extremely cooperative in working with us to get this operation up and running.”

In addition to restarting the existing facility, the company plans to expand its operations in a new combined production and warehouse facility in 12 to 15 months. Jobs at the new facility will include general labor, skilled trades, degreed technicians, and supervisory and management positions.

Grayson County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ralph Tuggle was involved in the project since initially meeting with Universal officials. “I’m thrilled that we could show Universal that Grayson County is open for business and look forward to helping their project move ahead with great success,” he said.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Grayson County’s Office of Economic Development and Virginia’s aCorridor to prepare the state’s proposal and negotiate an incentive package that sealed the deal for Virginia. Governor Warner approved a $150,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to support Grayson County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission approved $150,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds to support Grayson County with the project. The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will support the project with training through its Workforce Services Program.


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