SUNBURY — An industrial hemp manufacturer moving into the former Sunbury Textile Mill will bring 50 new jobs to the region within its first year.
On Monday, economic developer DRIVE (Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy) announced that Sivana Converting LLC purchased the remaining 350,000-square-foot portion of the Sunbury Textile facility, previously owned by Glenn Raven Custom Fabrics LLC. Sivana will join Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC on the 57-acre site.
“We are really excited to be starting this new venture in the central Susquehanna region,” said Sivana CEO Soheil Shahrooz. “The facility in Sunbury will meet our needs now and give us room to grow in the future.”
The former textile facility closed in August, leaving 110 employees without jobs. The owners donated the facility in December to DRIVE, an economic development council serving Northumberland, Union, Snyder, Montour and Columbia counties. The facility had been operating in Sunbury for 66 years. For the last 20 years, the Sunbury facility has been exclusively licensed to produce North Carolina-based company Glen Raven’s Sunbrella fabrics for outdoor/indoor furniture markets.
Sivana is expected to be open within three to six months while Fresh Roasted is expected to be open next month.
Sivana’s operation will produce hemp-based biodegradable plastic food containers, cups, plates, and straws for the commercial market.
“Hemp is a more sustainable, organic and regenerative crop,” said Shahrooz. “Almost anything that can be made with plastic can be made with hemp bio-plastic.”
The goal was for this building to continue to be an asset for the community, said DRIVE Executive Director Jennifer Wakeman.
“Sivana Converting is on the cutting edge in this market. We’re looking forward to helping them make connections here that will grow their Sunbury operation,” said Wakeman.
Sivana Converting expects to begin hiring this fall. Positions will include technicians, operators, packers, customer service representatives, sales, and office administration. The company’s growth plan projects expanding the workforce to more than 125 in its third year. Senior management has more than 30 years of experience in paper production and manufacturing.
“We’re taking our expertise and applying it to this new technology to create a greener, more sustainable future,” said Shahrooz.
Estimated hiring in fall
Wakeman said Sivana is expecting equipment in three months, assuming the supply chain isn’t slowing everything down. The estimated hiring date is in the fall with a goal of opening by the end of the year, said Wakeman.
City Administrator Derrick Backer said the news is welcome.
“We are extremely happy that DRIVE was able to bring in a company that will create jobs within Sunbury,” said Backer. “DRIVE has done a great job and we look forward to working with DRIVE on other facilities in the city.”
Northumberland County Commissioner Chairman Sam Schiccatano echoed Backer’s comments, noting that the county partnered with DRIVE two years ago for economic development in Northumberland County.
“That’s great news for our area and our county,” said Schiccatano. “Bringing in that many jobs over three years will be helpful. That’s why we wanted to be part of DRIVE. They answered the call to bring in new jobs.”
State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108, praised DRIVE for their efforts.
“The fact that DRIVE was able to fill the site in less than a year speaks volumes for the work they’re doing,” said Culver. “Anyone who has been in there knows it’s a pretty unique and magical place. Glenn Raven saw that and wanted us to do something with it. It’s such a wonderful thing to welcome a new business into the community. It’s our hope they become part of the community.”
Culver thanked all involved, including the former employees who set the standard for a quality workforce.
“That helped us attract new business,” she said. “It’s a testament to them over these years.”
Fresh Roasted is expected to open next month in a 60,000-square-foot space. The company, which originated in Selinsgrove in 2008, expanded 2 1/2 years ago to Sunbury and grew so much they needed to expand and relocate again.
Fresh Roasted Coffee has expanded into tea and K-cups and anticipates receiving two more coffee roasters which will be added to the three roasters he operates now, as well as another machine that will produce organic, compostable K-cups. In addition to producing his own beverages, the company has also secured a contract to roast, pack and ship a North Carolina company’s products.