KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)—The Kingsport Economic Development Board (KEDB) approved a lease agreement with Palmex USA for the former home of Anita’s Snack Foods in Gateway Commerce Park.

Anitas Snacks began operating out of the facility in 2018, but local economic development leaders say the California-based company’s business never really took off on the East Coast.

Rather than abandoning the facility, they searched for a new tenant and found Palmex.

“They brought the client to us and it made it so easy,” NETWORKs Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker told News Channel 11. “It just worked out really great for everyone.”

Palmex has committed to invest $16.5 million into the Kingsport facility over the next five years and to meet or exceed proposed annual employment thresholds. Palmex is committed to employing 89 people by 2027 with benchmarks along the way, or face a rent hike.

“Everybody’s always open to revisit those things. But without those triggers, there’s no accountability,” Kingsport Economic Development Board Chairman Craig Denison told News Channel 11.

Walker said the company will begin by taking on Anita’s 28 current employees and work its way up.

“So, in year four and five and six, it just keeps adding on to where it gets to be about 120 people,” Walker said.

The facility will produce the components of salty snacks as well as continue the use of Anita’s tortilla-frying line.

“The whole desire of what we try to do is to increase the job base and increase our tax collections so that the city of Kingsport and Sullivan County have more revenue to be able to do more things for the citizens of the community,” said Denison.

Denison said the project, which will bring jobs to the city and allow the city to collect personal property taxes as Palmex adds more production lines, is a perfect illustration of KEDB’s goals.