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International company ramps up Kemper production

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A company specializing in over-the-counter pharmaceutical products is dialing up production a little over a month after opening its doors in Kemper County.

Emilia Resources LLC acquired the former Pharma Pac LLC building located just outside of DeKalb in April and kicked off operations in May.

"We have just started to ramp up the plant over the last few weeks and are excited to already have approximately 60 full-time employees on board with us, with a goal of significantly increasing that number over the coming months and years," said Renee Barch-Niles, president of Dublin, Ohio, based Emilia Personal Care.

"If the plant produces as expected, having 100 people back to work in the plant is very realistic by year's end."

Emilia Resources and Emilia Personal Care operate under the umbrella of Emilia Cosmetics, one of the largest manufacturers of private label/contract manufacturing health and beauty products in the world, serving the U.S., Israel, Europe, Australia, South America and Asia. Emilia's parent company, The Emilia Development Co., is headquartered in Israel.

The company's clients include Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Kmart, Kroger, Dollar General and Rite Aid.

On March 7, Pharma Pac filed a notice with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security that it had laid off its 84 employees.

Twenty of those workers were hired back on a temporary basis to close out the business.

Emilia Resources moved into the building shortly after Pharma Pac closed. The timing was not coincidental. Pharma Pac made and packaged drugs with a focus on creams and ointments.

"The amazing product portfolio that the DeKalb facility was making is what intrigued us to make the long term investment," Barch-Niles said of the decision to purchase the Kemper plant.

Not only was the plant operational, but there was a workforce in place already trained in making over-the-counter products.

"We were fortunate to be able to attract many skilled employees that had worked in the plant in the past and all of the employees seemed excited about working with Emilia," Barch-Niles said. "The quality of the talent has enabled us to start up a completely new operation on an accelerated timeline that is rarely experienced in any new business operation."

At its height, Pharma Pac employed 180 workers, Kemper County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Craig Hitt said.

In 2005, the state issued $500,000 in bonds used by Pharma Pac to buy and renovate the Kemper County plant. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development arm issued a $740,000 loan to the company.

Having Emilia step into the void created when Pharma Pac closed shop "is fantastic not only for the employees who were able to go back to work, but for what it does for our economy," Hitt said.

DeKalb Mayor Homer Hall agreed.

"It's good to keep those local jobs," Hall said. "We also sold water and sewer to the plant. It helps us to not lose that customer. They use a lot of water and sewer."

Barch-Niles said long term plans for the company include possible growth and expansion.

"The plant is large enough to bring in more equipment and we have the potential land expansion opportunities as well," Barch-Niles said. "We see outstanding growth opportunities in DeKalb and believe we will succeed in bringing the facility back to being a leading manufacturing plant in the OTC (over the counter) industry."

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Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com

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