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Coca-Cola UNITED’s $335 Million Investment Expected to Create Dozens of New Jobs in Birmingham

The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday approved $2 million to help remediate a brownfield site to clear the way for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United Inc.'s $335 million headquarters. (Artist Rendering)

By Barnett Wright | The Birmingham Times

The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday approved $2 million to help remediate a brownfield site to clear the way for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United Inc.’s $335 million headquarters as well as its distribution operations in Birmingham’s Kingston community.

The new corporate headquarters will include a sales, distribution and warehousing center, region, division and offices, and a customer call center. The multifaceted CCBCU facility is expected to create up to 50 new jobs and retain more than 750 jobs.

The company’s Classic Food and Vending arm, customer solutions center and services department will also be based in the new facility.

Coca-Cola United CEO Mike Suco (Provided)

“Today’s announcement reflects our long-standing commitment to our associates, our customers and the communities we have the honor of serving,” said CCBCU President and CEO Mike Suco, who added plans are to break ground this summer and take about three years to complete.

“It is through our strong relationships that we have arrived at this defining moment in our company’s history, and we are grateful to our local and state officials and partners for their support in our continued success,” he said.

According to Suco, the company, which began in 1902, is the third largest Coca-Cola Bottling Company in the country.

“Our story began more than 120 years ago in Birmingham, and with this investment, our story will continue for years to come,” said the CEO, referring to one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

What began as a company with one associate and mule named Bird in 1902 has now turned into a multi-billion dollar company, privately held with over 10,000 associates doing business across 52 different facilities across six states “and all that started right here in our hometown of Birmingham,” Suco said.

“Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc.’s (UNITED) commitment to providing livable wage jobs, economic and community development opportunities in Jefferson County, the city of Birmingham and the region has been nothing short of amazing,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales, who represents the district in which the company will reside. “When you think of a holistic community partner, I immediately think of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc.”

Earlier this month, the Birmingham City Council approved an incentive package for the redevelopment project. City officials have said Coca-Cola’s planned investment ranks as one of the largest corporate investments in the city’s history.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement, “Coca-Cola Bottling Company United is the definition of a legacy business in Birmingham. Having been in our community and a part of its growth for more than 100 years gives me great pleasure to see the city play a significant role for future generations. This investment is great for Birmingham, our region and our state.”

Birmingham City Councilor and Community Development Committee Chair JT Moore, whose district will include the new construction, said the project marks a transformative milestone. “I’m excited for this development and how it will breathe new life into an abandoned site that has been a point of contention for our residents,” said the councilor.

“I know that this will be a major economic generator for the city; not only that but it’s located right in the heart of District 4 and a community that will greatly benefit from the new opportunities, community engagement and potential job creation,” he said.

The new facility will include a 150,000-square-foot multi-floor office complex and a 300,000-square-foot warehouse featuring the leading-edge Vertique case picking system that is among the most advanced in the beverage industry.  “We have seen the benefits first-hand of Vertique in our other facilities,” Suco said. “The system improves the process of fulfilling customer orders and puts less stress on our associates.”

The future building, which along with its famous Coca-Cola trademark will be highly visible to traffic along Interstate 20/59 east of downtown and also visible to air traffic flying into Birmingham.

Stan Ellington, who serves as capital investment project lead on the project and is a retired vice president of supply chain and operations, said the building and signage “will be a gateway into and out of the city … what direction you’re going on the interstate, you’ll know you’re going by a Coke facility, or whether you’re landing in an airplane or taking off. You’ll certainly be able to recognize it,” he said.

Ellington also pointed out the project “brings revitalization to the Kingston community, but also hopefully that that’s an anchor for the rest of the businesses around there and they can continue to grow,” he said.

“We believe that area will become an anchor for continued revitalization, a beautiful gateway into and out of this city through the airport, but also a beautiful campus for our associates to come to work,” he said.

Suco told The Birmingham Times that the facility will allow all employees to work from a central location. “We’ve got associates in a couple of different places around the city. So, it’s going to allow us to bring everybody together,” he said. “It will be the home for our Birmingham sales center team, our North Alabama division team, our Central region team, and it’ll be our corporate headquarters.”

The company has operated out of its current facility at 4600 East Lake Blvd. since 1979.

“We are out of space, have been out of space for a while,” Suco said. “That’s going to give us an opportunity to not only have enough room to operate, but be able to grow as we go forward.”

The iconic Coca-Cola brand made its way to the Magic City in 1902 when businessman and community philanthropist Crawford Johnson Sr. opened Birmingham Coca-Cola. Johnson and his family went on to open and acquire several bottling franchises throughout the Southeast, and in 1974, the company was incorporated as Coca-Cola UNITED.

What others are saying:

Coca-Cola UNITED Board of Directors Chairman Conrad W. Rafield III: “This project has been years in making and we are excited to build a campus that will reflect our foundational core values of Quality, Excellence, Integrity and Respect. We are incredibly proud of the relationships and partnerships we’ve forged in the greater Birmingham area through the years, and we remain committed to being good stewards and neighbors in the communities where we live and work.”

Governor Kay Ivey: “For over 120 years, Coca-Cola UNITED has been a stand-out member of Birmingham’s business community, so it’s wonderful to see this world-class company make a major investment to build a new headquarters facility in the Magic City. Coca-Cola UNITED’s landmark growth project will create new jobs in its home base in Birmingham while also solidifying the company’s foundation in the city for decades to come – and that’s great news for all of Alabama.”

Alabama Commerce Secretary Ellen McNair: “Coca-Cola UNITED’s impressive new facility will become an eye-catching gateway to Birmingham and transmit the powerful signal that the Magic City is a great place to do business. Launching this project, in this particular location, perfectly exemplifies how this world-class company is giving back to its community.”

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens: “Jefferson County is pleased to be a contributing partner to this move and expansion. We are proud of the accomplishments and truly appreciate the confidence that Coke United has in our great city and county. This investment was brought to fruition by working through our governmental partners and the great leadership at Coke United. Together, we make great things happen.”

Times staff writer Sym Posey contributed to this post.