ST. LOUIS — Nestlé Purina PetCare Company has opened its first new U.S. factory in two decades.
The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, operates 20 factories across the country.
The $320 million facility in Hartwell, Georgia, now has nearly 200 employees, and over the next few years that number is expected to rise to 240, with the completion of new lines and other expansions.
The company also employs 350 at a manufacturing facility in Fairburn, Georgia, about two hours from Hartwell.
Purina announced the new factory in 2017, and began initial operations of a distribution center there in spring 2018.
The company’s origins date back to 1894 in St. Louis, when William H. Danforth and partners formed the Robinson-Danforth Commission Co., which was renamed Ralston Purina in 1902.
Switzerland-based Nestlé S.A. acquired Ralston Purina in 2001.
In a sales report in October, Nestlé said Purina PetCare was one of its top growth categories. The company has cited growth in the wet cat food sector as a driver of the Hartwell investment.
More than two-thirds of U.S. households own a pet, according to a survey from the American Pet Products Association. More than 42 million U.S. households own a cat.
The company aims to power the plant with 100% renewable electricity in the near future, according to a press release. It already sends zero waste to landfills, instead relying on composting, recycling and energy recovery.