PRYOR – NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth joined Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and officials from The Gatorade Company owned by PepsiCo to break ground Thursday morning on a new manufacturing and distribution facility in Mayes County.

The onsite event started with Gatorade president Chuck Maniscalco telling the crowd what he had learned about Oklahoma. He joked that one of the best things about Oklahoma is that it is so warm people to drink more Gatorade.

The Pryor area is a wonderful community with excellent resources and an important transportation hub in the South Central Region. We are happy to call this area home to our new plant,” Maniscalco said.

The facility, which will be the company’s ninth plant, will produce both Gatorade Thirst Quencher and Propel Fitness Water, and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007. Parent company PepsiCo announced earlier this year that a new manufacturing facility was needed to help keep up with growing demand for the country’s No. 1 sports drink and No. 1 enhanced water.

The ceremony was given a twist by Kenseth, the 2003 Nextel Cup Champion and spokesman for Gatorade, who drove a bulldozer onto the site to kick-off the official groundbreaking.

The facility, which is expected to bring 280 jobs to the area, was welcomed by local and state elected officials.

“This is great news for Mayes County and the entire state of Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “We worked very hard to bring this new plant and its good-paying jobs to our state, and we’re excited about the positive economic impact they will have here.”

Construction on the facility is expected to continue through approximately September 2007. The new Gatorade plant will be located on 160 acres in the town of Pryor on Highway 69A at MidAmerica, west of the existing Covalence (formerly Tyco) plastics plant. The development will have a collective size of approximately 1.4 million square feet which will include a 300,000 square-foot production facility and a 1.1 million square-foot warehouse/distribution center.

Joining the groundbreaking ceremonies were MidAmerica Industrial Park Administrator Sanders Mitchell and Pryor Mayor Jimmy Tramel.

Tramel was enthusiastic about the plant opening. He said the benefits for the town are going to be astounding. “It is going to bring new people, more money, and a better quality of life to the community.”

In September of this year, the city will receiving bids for a new traffic light at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and U.S. Highway 69A to accomodate for the higher volume of traffic. The light is planned to be in operation by February of 2007, seven months before the plant’s opening.

Kenny Howell, staff writer for the Pryor Daily Times, contributed to this article.