Kaine visits Sabra plant, talks jobs and hummus
By Caitlin Davis
Oct 22, 2012, 12:37
photo by Caitin Davis Tim Kaine was instrumental in bringing the Sabra plant to the Commonwealth.
Decked out in hardhat, goggles, hair net and lab coat, former Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine, toured Sabra Dipping Co. in Colonial Heights, a business he played a critical role in bringing to Virginia in 2008.
As Kaine watched the transformation of 2,000 pounds of chickpeas into hummus to be packed and shipped all over the country, he said he could see what the company was doing for the state’s economy.
“A lot of Americans hear trade issues and what jobs we might lose...,” Kaine said. “But trade isn’t about what we lose, it is about what we gain.”
Kaine said Sabra is just one in a long line of businesses locating in Virginia, a tradition started centuries ago during the colonial era. He said the commonwealth is the product of global trade.
“We have been global players since Jamestown Island,” Kaine said. “It was a global economic opportunity. We need to remember that as part of our tradition.”
The Sabra plant is currently constructing a $28 million, 20,000-square-foot expansion, set to open in June of 2013.
The expansion will be a hub of research and development for the company, and the location of what Sabra is calling its Center of Excellence. The company says the center will employ experts in the areas of food technology, agriculture, nutrition, manufacturing and distribution.
“Virginia is the right place for the Center of Excellence,” Meiky Tollman, Chief Operation Officer for Sabra, said. “We are brining new talent to Virginia.”
Tollman said Sabra has changed a lot for the state. He said that when the plant opened in 2009, it brought over 300 jobs to the state in the midst of an economic downturn.
“Jobs were needed,” Tollman said. “People appreciated it today that we came down here when it was needed, creating a place that is a Sabra family place.”
Kaine said he felt a sense of “parental” pride as he stood among plant workers and officials on Wednesday morning and tasted the fruits of his economic development labors.
photo by Caitlin Davis Kaine samples some guacamole at Sabra on Wednesday morning.
After sampling the different hummus flavors, as well as guacamole and salsa, he said his favorite hummus is still the pine nut variety.
Kaine said that he wants to grow the talent base in Virginia, just as Sabra is doing in Colonial Heights.
“I have a strong belief that if you win the talent race, you win the economic race,” Kaine said. “...Ultimately, the stronger you are in education and workforce development, the more economically successful you are.”
Kaine said he wants to take a look at all aspects of education in the state as part of economic reform.
“I want to work very heavily on the education issues, early childhood education, the right curricula reforms, to take No Child Left Behind to its next, better version,” Kaine said.
Kaine said that education reforms will improve the workforce in the state.
“The stronger workforce we have, the more competitive we will be,” Kaine said.
As Kaine said his good-byes to the Sabra staff, he said he is pleased to see the expansion and the growth that has occurred since the plant put down its roots in Virginia.
“When we made the announcement in 2008, there were 260 employees,” Kaine said. “Now we are 400 and climbing with the expansion. That’s very, very good news.”