Continental Mills leadership, employees and family members, along with state and local dignitaries and guests, celebrated the Hopkinsville manufacturing facility's 20th anniversary Friday with an open house.
Dozens gathered under a large white tent in front of the site to escape the 90-degree heat and humidity.
Andy Heily, Continental Mills CEO and president, traveled from a balmy Seattle, Washington, where the family-owned business is headquartered, to attend the celebration.
"We're here to celebrate Hopkinsville. We're here to celebrate all the people who have made us successful," he said. "People have made us successful in the past, they do today and they will tomorrow."
Hopkinsville is the largest Continental Mills manufacturing facility in terms of pounds produced, individual skews produced and number of employees.
The Hopkinsville site has 278 employees and operates seven product lines, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for holidays. Heily said 40% of Continental Mills employees work at the Kentucky facility.
"I can't find the words to share my appreciation, and frankly, admiration for the work you guys do each and every day," he said. "Whenever I come out here, I'm absolutely blown away with the skills, the capabilities, the knowledge, the passion, the commitment, the teamwork, the collaboration you guys have every single day to make us successful … We can't be successful if Hopkinsville is not successful. We're having a lot of success right now."
In addition to the company celebration, Continental Mills employees who have reached two decades of employment will be treated to dinner at Morton's in Nashville tonight as a member of the 20-Year Club.
Heily said building the Hopkinsville plant was a "leap of faith" for Continental Mills. The company was started in 1932 by a Seattle Bridge Club with an idea for a "just-add-water pie crust mix." The idea evolved into the company's first brand, Krusteaz (easy-crust).
"About 25 years ago, it became clear that for Continental Mills to continue to be relevant, we were going to need a presence east of the Rockies … It was necessary for us to survive," he said. "When the reality of forming a true partnership with Siemer Milling became just that -- a reality -- suddenly we went from survive to profit … The results have spoken for themselves over the last 20 years."
The Hopkinsville facility opened in 1999. A pipe runs across the railroad tracks from Siemer Milling into Continental Mills to deliver freshly milled flour directly into the facility.
Rick Siemer, president Siemer Milling Company said the union of the companies is and promises to continue to be mutually beneficial to both companies.
"We appreciate Continental Mills. We admire Continental Mills and we just plain like each other. We have this incredible relationship. We do a good job together because we want to do a good job," he said. "This is a genuine friendship that has persisted over time."
Steve Tribble, Christian County judge-executive, held his current office when Continental Mills decided to build in Hopkinsville.
"It was great to watch these partners come together," he said of Continental Mills and Siemer Milling. "I'm very proud that you've been here 20 years.
Carter Hendricks, Hopkinsville Mayor, thanked Heily and his family for investing in Hopkinsville two decades ago.
"Thanks to each one of you for making the best pancakes in the world," he said to the employees in the crowd.
Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean M. Hampton, who used to service the plant with International Paper and corrugated cardboard boxes, said back then she would spend the bulk of her time on the floor talking with the employees.
"I felt like part of the family here," she said. "This is a success story. This is the kind of success we want to see all over the state. The fact that you decided to build here; the fact that you decided to grow here in Kentucky - I'm so glad that you did. The people that you hire, the profits that you make, you make good products.
"You all are part of what makes Kentucky successful. I wish you many, many more decades of tremendous success," Hampton said.
Following the remarks, guests were treated to a brunch of Krusteaz pancakes, cookies, muffins and other products manufactured here and given tours of the facility by Continental Mills employees.
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or firstname.lastname@example.org.