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Coca Cola UNITED holds groundbreaking ceremony on new facility in Birmingham

On Thursday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) joined officials with Coca-Cola UNITED in a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of their planned new headquarters and operations center in Birmingham. The new facility is being built on the site of the long abandoned Stockham Valve site on Richard Arrington Boulevard, near the Kingston and Woodlawn neighborhoods.

"Today is a great day for the City of Birmingham and the entire City of Alabama," said Gov. Ivey. "Coca-Cola UNITED's new campus is a $330 million investment in the City of Birmingham."

Coca-Cola has been a cultural phenomenon across the country for generations, but particularly in the South.

"Coca-Cola is more than just a refreshment," said Ivey. "Enjoying a Coca Cola together brings people together like few things can."

"I am proud to say that Coca-Cola UNITED continues to call Birmingham home," said Ivey.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said, "This is a good day to tell everyone to have a Coke and a smile."

Members of the Woodfin family lived for years in the Kingston Community.

"My great grandmother lived on this street on the other side of the fence, (surrounding the old Stockham Valve Complex)," said Woodfin. "The people in the Kingston Community, we don't call it Richard Arrington, we call it Cross-Ten. When Stockham Valves vacated this community so many years ago it left a huge hole in this community. When Coca Cola bought this site, we saw revitalization as a reality and not just a hope."

"I also want to thank the Birmingham City Council for supporting this," Woodfin added. "It could not have been done with you. This will bring a few dozen jobs to the Birmingham area which is always good, but it will also bring a state-of-the-art campus to the Kingston Community. Today is a win for Birmingham's workforce, for partnerships, but it is also a win for the Kingston Community."

Dr. Nicole Jones Wadsworth joined Gov. Ivey, Woodfin, and the many other government and corporate dignitaries at the groundbreaking event.

"The story of Coca-Cola in Birmingham began in 1902 with one man, $12,000, and one associate," Dr. Jones Wadsworth told the Alabama Gazette. "That vision grew into Coca-Cola UNITED, now the third largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the US, which has employed five generations of family and friends along with thousands of Alabamians over the past 122 years. The choice to redevelop a brownfield site in the Kingston community is a testament to the commitment between the City of Birmingham, State of Alabama, and Coca-Cola UNITED. In approximately three years, on the 125th Anniversary of Coca-Cola's presence in Alabama, the area will be able to see the completion of a 150,000 square-foot corporate office complex and a 350,000 ft.² bottling plant - visible on land and from the air. Thank you, Coca-Cola UNITED, for investing in our people."

David Gulledge is the North Alabama Division Vice President for Coca Cola UNITED.

Gulledge said that Coca-Cola UNITED has 750 associates in its Birmingham operations and 10,000 total employees in six states.

Mike Succo is the President and CEO of Coca-Cola UNITED.

Succo explained that Coca Cola UNITED was started in 1901 when Crawford Johnson founded the company "with $12,000 in borrowed capital. His original distribution team was one associate and a mule named Birdy."

"We are now one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the United States," said Succo.

The fifth generation of Johnson descendants are now in the business.

"This is a community centered and family oriented business," said Succo. "That's how Mr. Johnson started this and how we are going to keep running it."

Succo said that the new bottling plant will utilize, "One of the most technologically advanced systems in the bottling industry."

"It is going to take three years and in those 3 years we are going to celebrate 125 years in this community," said Succo. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of our associates for making all of this possible by doing what they do every day."

Birmingham City Council J.T. Moore also spoke at the gathering.

"Coca Cola has the ability to bring people together," said Moore. "They bring people together across race, class, and communities."

"Thank you for recognizing the promise right here in District 4," said Councilman Moore. "Let this day mark a new opportunity for the community of Kingston. Thank you for keeping the real magic in the Magic City."

County Commissioner Joe Knight (R) said, "In 1819 Jefferson County was established. In 1871 Birmingham was established as a city. In 1902 Crawford Johnson founded Coca Cola UNITED."

"Today I say to our friends at Coca-Cola UNITED, you are doing a great job – stay the course," said Knight.

Commissioner Lashunda Scales (D) said, "Today is a beautiful and more importantly an impactful day."

"Coca-Cola UNITED could have left Jefferson County," Scales said. "To keep Coca-Cola in this area, where they wanted to be, they needed more land. We have invested $2 million into this $330 million project because it is worth it."

Scales thanked Coca-Cola UNITED for everything they have done for the community.

"You have united us in a way that very few businesses can do," Scales said.

The Birmingham engineering firm of Brasfield and Gorie will be working with Coca-Cola UNITED on the massive construction effort.

Conrad Rayfield is the Chairman at Coca-Cola UNITED.

"Birmingham has been our home and with the construction of this new facility will be home to our company for the next 100 plus years," said Rayfield. "Also with us today are members of the fourth and fifth generation of Crawford Johnson's family."

John Sherman is Coca-Cola UNITED's Vice Chairman. Sherman introduced six associates who have been with Coca Cola UNITED for over 40 years.

"These six individuals represent over ten thousand associates who are the real reason we are here today," said Sherman.

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