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Hershey representatives with Virginia and Augusta County officials dig into the ground for the formal groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion to the Hershey facility in Stuarts Draft Thursday.

STUARTS DRAFT — Hershey Chocolate of Virginia formally announced a more than $104 million expansion to its Stuarts Draft facility during a ceremony Thursday with Hershey representatives along with state and local officials.

Gov. Ralph Northam returned for the second time this week for an announcement of a multimillion expansion to a Valley business.

Pharmaceutical company Merck announced a $1 billion expansion to its Elkton facility over three years in a ceremony Northam attended on Monday.

“As a physician, it was exciting to be with a pharmaceutical company, but also as a person who loves candy and chocolate, it was exciting to be here at Hershey today,” Northam said.

The expansion will be a total of 111,000 square feet, with 64,000 as an addition to the standing building and 46,000 square feet as a standalone peanut roasting operation.

One new line will be constructed to produce Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. This line will result in a 15% increase in production volume and finished goods manufacturing space for the facility, which has been in Stuarts Draft for more than 35 years.

The standalone building will be called a “Hershey Peanut Roasting Center of Excellence” and will increase peanut roasting output by more than 50% per hour.

More than 85% of Hershey’s candy sold in the U.S. is made in the company’s eight U.S. plants, like the one in Stuarts Draft, said Susanna Zhu, U.S. supply chain manager for Hershey.

The Stuarts Draft facility makes Mr. Goodbars, Almond Joys and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and seasonal shapes and has been one of the best performing plants for Hershey, Zhu said.

“Everybody loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate,” Zhu said.

Reese’s is the largest American candy brand with annual sales of over $170 million in 2017, according to Statista, a statistical database company.

“So when we look for growth, this is the place we want to continue to invest in and continue to grow,” she said.

Contact Ian Munro at 574-6278 or imunro@dnronline.com. Follow Ian on Twitter @IanMunroDNR

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I've been doing my part to support this local business.

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