Flanders Provision Co. of Georgia has moved into the former Bubba Burger plant in Industrial Park West in Hastings.

The former Bubba Burger plant in Industrial Park West is up and running under new ownership, employing 32 people with that number to increase by the end of the year.

Hastings Utility Board members voted 5-0 during their regular meeting Thursday to recommend approval of the request from the Flanders Provisions Co. for $125,000 from Hastings Utilities’ economic development funds. The recommendation will be forwarded to the Hastings City Council.

The Flanders Provisions Co. started operations at the plant on Monday with 32 employees.

According to its website, Flanders was started in February 1958 by Leon and Gertrude Flanders as Ware Provision Co. in Waycross, Georgia, as a smokehouse. The business is engaged in the production, sale and distribution of frozen hamburgers and beef patties.

Introducing Flanders’ request at Thursday’s meeting, Maggie Vaughan, interim director of the Hastings Economic Development Corp., said to receive the funds the company has committed to creating at least 50 new jobs and spending $3.75 million on plant upgrades.

That investment includes facility upgrades of $250,000, purchasing $1.5 million in new equipment and transferring equipment totaling $2 million from Flanders’ previous location in Georgia.

“As long as they meet their requirements then they don’t have to pay it back,” Vaughan said of the $125,000.

She said according to the terms of the agreement, Flanders is required to have 50 full-time employees by Jan. 1, 2019, and have a minimum of 50 full-time employees for at least 24 months.

She said management of the Hastings plant will provide production and utility consumption figures after the plant is open for some time.

She said Flanders left its plant in Georgia because it wanted to expand and grow.

“Hastings was the perfect location to do that,” she said.

Bubba Burger closed in 2013. Bubba Foods bought the former Armour-Eckrich plant in Hastings in 2010 after it had closed the year before.

While Flanders needs to have at least 50 full-time employees, Vaughan said she has heard from plant management the goal is to have at least 60 full-time workers by the end of the year and possibly 80 within a five-year period.

Hastings Utilities established an economic development incentive fund of $5.5 million in 2011.

That fund is also the source for the $850,000 local match to accompany LB518 Rural Workforce Housing Development Funds that will go toward workforce housing projects at North Park Commons. Those funds eventually will establish a local workforce housing reuse loan program.

Prior to the Flanders and LB518 funding requests, it had a balance of $2.488 million.

While the economic development incentive fund was established to aid HEDC efforts, the fund remains in the control of Hastings Utilities.

Mayor Corey Stutte thanked Flanders for opening in the community. He said while Flanders has sourcing for its raw materials, the company expressed interest in possibly sourcing from within Nebraska.

He said local work on the agreement with Flanders began shortly after the beginning of the year.

“This is something that’s been in the process for quite some time,” he said. “There were several interested parties in the Bubba Burger’s building. Some of them fell through. We got close to some potential other targets there. Flanders, I think, will be a good partner here. We’re excited they’re actually moving their plant from Georgia to Hastings, creating over 50 jobs and investing in our community. It’s a good opportunity for us to work with them. I would encourage them to get involved in the community, get involved in the chamber, to continue to work with us to make them successful as well as to invest in our community.”

Also during the meeting, board members received a review of the activated sludge project that removes ammonia from the effluent at the Pollution Control Facility.

Board members also received a strategic initiative review for strategic planning as well as human resources training support with Central Community College-Hastings.

HU Manager Kevin Johnson also discussed with the board establishing two risk management oversight committees: A market and customer committee led by Don Cox, HU director of marketing and energy supply, which will focus on energy market changes and potential effects to customers and Hastings Utilities; and an infrastructure and business committee led by HU Assistant Manager Al Meyer that focuses on aging HU infrastructure and potential effects to customer rates and HU financials.