Meridian Star

Local News

July 6, 2014

Kemper officials celebrate return of jobs

MERIDIAN —     Production is back on track at a Kemper County manufacturing outfit that came close to shutting down completely before another company bought it. Nearly 80 employees have already been hired back, officials said.

    Emilia Resources LLC acquired the former Pharma Pac LLC building located just outside of DeKalb in April and started operations in May. Emilia is based in Israel and the DeKalb plant is its first manufacturing facility outside of that country. At a reception earlier this week to welcome the company's owner and CEO, Kemper County officials expressed their gratitude for bringing jobs back to the area.

    Craig Hitt, executive director, Kemper County Economic Development Authority, said Pharma Pac started downsizing its work force in the fall of 2013 and by Christmas, they were down from 180 to around 50.

    "Then by the first of the year they were down to about 20 employees on site," Hitt said.  "People are getting their jobs back now. They are hiring the people who were there because obviously they know their jobs. They know the equipment and the building. Most of them are local people. They have the potential to grow."

    Alon Tavor, CEO, said Emilia is the leading personal care company in Israel and manufactures everything from bar soaps, shampoos and conditioners, to body lotions, creams and many other personal care products. The company supplies retailers such as WalMart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and Kroger. They have expanded their market to the United Kingdom and are working on opening markets in Australia.

    The company, originally named Caroline Cosmetics, first opened in 1981 in southern Israel.

    "Unlike this south, which is green and a really lovely place, especially the last time I was here when the Magnolias were blooming — it was amazing," Tavor said. "We are in kind of a desert where we are. But also it is a small town, approximately 10,000 people in the town."

    Tavor said the company sold its brand in 2010, the same year the company was purchased by Oded Feller.

    "The opportunity came because the company that was here practically stopped its operation," Feller said. "We wanted to check to see if it fits — the production, the products, the infrastructure, the people, the community — all this exists so it justifies us to take risks. There is always a risk when you make an investment."

    Feller said he is confident in the work force that is available.

    "We are quite happy with what we found here," Feller said. "The community is very supportive and we are hoping for growth."

    Feller is optimistic that the plant will need even more employees at some point.

    No one could be happier about the new company coming in than Roy Davis, general manager. He also served as general manager under Pharma Pac.

    "I grew up in this town. I lived here most of my life. I left here when I was in the military for a while," Davis said. "I came back and these people I laid off in December, one week before Christmas, were lifelong associates. "

    Some were friends, some were family, he said.

    "Some of them had kids who are friends with my kids. It was tough. Half of them got laid off December 19," Davis said. "The other half got laid off March 6, so one of the reasons I stayed was to see these people, these friends of mine have a chance to come back and go back to work. That's been the motivation through all the heartache — that one day we were going make it back."

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