Four hundred Bob Evans Farms employees moved into their new headquarters last week in New Albany.
The three-building complex includes offices, a test kitchen, a training facility and the second Bob Evans Express, an on-the-go version of the restaurant.
"They put so much thought into everything," said Robbin Evans Chamberlain, daughter of company founder, Bob Evans. "It's staggering to me how much attention to detail and how inspired by history this is."
The complex has a modern look but retains the feel of a farm, with a paddock for horses on the north side of the building and a silo and the beginnings of a small orchard on the south side.
During the grand-opening celebration Saturday, Oct. 26, company officials referred to the complex as "Farm North," referencing the company's original homestead farm in Rio Grande in southern Ohio.
Chamberlain said her father would have been impressed and somewhat surprised by the facility.
"My father would have been amazed that he had anything to do with this at all," she said.
Bob Evans started making sausage on his farm and selling it from a small restaurant in Gallipolis in 1948.
Chamberlain said he couldn't find sausage he liked, so he made it himself from a family recipe. Before long, people were buying it by the bucket.
Part of that story is detailed in the new building's Heritage Hallway, a 200-foot corridor featuring memorabilia from the company's history.
Chamberlain and Marty Huestis, daughter of Bob's cousin Tim Evans, recognized many images in the hallway, including one photograph of Chamberlain as a child.
The facility includes many references to the past, with conference rooms named after company founders and one of the original sausage trucks on display in the main building's entryway.
Steven Davis, company chairman and CEO, said the company realized it needed a new facility after employees at the location on South High Street in Columbus asked for a fitness facility.
Davis said after a full review of the Columbus facility, occupied since 1968, officials realized the company could not expand at that location.
Davis said company officials chose New Albany to build and are pleased that the building they vacated on South High Street has been filled with companies that are expected to create 900 jobs in the city of Columbus.
The new Bob Evans Farms campus in New Albany is on 40 acres south of Smith's Mill Road, west of Beech Road. The three buildings total 153,512 square feet and are used for the headquarters, training, and shipping and receiving, respectively.
They were built with a gold certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the campus has several outdoor features, including a pond and a one-mile walking path.
Davis called the facility "an interactive, educational farm experience," where Bob Evans store managers will be trained, new recipes will be developed and children can learn how food is prepared.
The company will continue its partnership with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, donating unused food from restaurants, and Davis announced Oct. 26 the company will give the food bank $50,000 to further its fresh-food initiative.
The Mid-Ohio Foodbank is trying to save an estimated 3 billion to 5 billion pounds of produce grown by farmers nationwide that is not sold and goes to waste.
New Albany awarded the company several incentives for its move, including:
* A 15-year, 100 percent tax abatement on real property taxes
* A 20 percent income-tax credit for five years and a 25 percent credit on building inspections and fees for implementing environmentally friendly technology
* A 5 percent income-tax credit for five years for health and wellness initiatives
* A $250,000 income-tax credit, repayable over two years, to help with relocation expenses
* A $1 million interest-free loan for 10 years from the city's economic-development fund.
The incentives are valued at more than $9 million, but over the term of the incentives, the project is anticipated to provide $11.3 million in income-tax revenue, according to New Albany officials.
Within four years, Bob Evans Farms is expected to have 510 jobs at the new headquarters, with an annual payroll of $35 million, city officials said.