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Meat producer plans new $18M Wilmington plant

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WILMINGTON – B&M Meats, a longtime wholesale Philly cheesesteak meat manufacturer in Southbridge, is planning a new $18 million plant to expand its production in the city.

B&M Meats, the producer of wholesale beef and chicken Philly cheesesteak meats, will expand its Wilmington operations and hire nearly 200 more workers. | PHOTO COURTESY OF B&M MEATS

A subsidiary of New Jersey-based Wonder Meats, B&M has 98 employees currently working at its butchering and manufacturing plant at 21 Commerce St. It’s seen growing sales over recent years, pushing its capacity to the max and leading it to look at expansion possibilities.

It is now looking to hire about 70 additional employees at the existing plant while also investing $18 million to acquire 9.86 acres of land and develop a new 80,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on the 7th Street Peninsula, officials said. There, 120 employees would be hired to open the facility in late 2023 or early 2024.

“We’ve done four expansions [on the current building] and we are now capped out, bursting at the seams, at that site of about 45,000 square feet,” Wonder Meats Chief Financial Officer Chris Linteris said.

On Monday morning, the 50-year-old, family-owned company was unanimously approved for $1.16 million in total taxpayer-backed grants by the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance, to build the plant and hire the employees.

Specifically, the company received a $195,975 grant to support adding 70 jobs at its existing Commerce Street location and another $359,450 to help the company add another 120 jobs at the new site to support increased production capacity, diversified product offerings and operational expansion through entry into new markets.

A capital expenditure grant of $555,300 will support the building of the new 7th Street plant, to be located at 1188 E. 7th St. across from the 7th Street Skatepark.

The company looked at sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey but decided to locate its expansion in Wilmington due to its relationship with city leaders, Linteris told the CDF. The employer had reportedly been working with the state’s economic development agency, Delaware Prosperity Partnership, and the city’s Office of Economic Development for nearly two years on the plan.

“No one is easier to work with, no one is more business-friendly, no one has helped with the process so intensely from selection of the site to planning to making introductions to key stakeholders,” Linteris said of their work with local officials.

Wonder Meats supplies industry giants like Sysco and U.S. Foods as well as smaller regional distributors with ground beef, ribeye steak and chicken for cheesesteaks, corned beef, pastrami and turkey, Linteris explained. For the steak meats made in Wilmington, end-user customers include chain restaurants, sandwich shops, schools, cafeterias and pizzerias.

Wonder Meats sales have grown more than five times since it acquired B&M in 2016, leading it to project continued growth for the foreseeable future, Linteris said. The peninsula parcel would allow the company room to grow along with its sales.

“The first phase of our growth is going to be these 80,000 square feet, but once that’s completed and we’re up and running, I’m very confident that we will outgrow that space,” he added. “This site allows us to grow up to about 150,000 square feet of space. So, we have a lot of room to grow there.”

The company would reportedly look to high school and community college programs to help identify potential workers amid a “very, very tight labor market,” Linteris said. Workforce has not been a troubling factor of late, however, as increased wages, quality benefits and career opportunities have helped attract loyal staff, he added.

“As one of the largest Philly steak manufacturers in the country, we’re excited to grow our presence in the rapidly growing and vibrant Wilmington community,” added Steve Realbuto, president of Wonder Meats, in a statement. “With a strong pool of talent, supportive local and state government, and proximity to critical transportation routes, Delaware is a great place for a manufacturing company to do business.”

By 2026, B&M projects total employment of 288 people between the two Wilmington facilities. New positions will include production line workers; operators; maintenance and production supervisors; and shippers/handlers. The company is currently hiring for positions at the Commerce Street location, and interviews will begin in late 2023 or early 2024 for the 7th Street facility.

“I want to thank B&M Meats for their commitment to our state and choosing to expand their production in the city of Wilmington,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “These new jobs will support Delaware workers and their families. This announcement once again proves that Delaware is a great place for companies to grow.”

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