A growing national customer base may have driven Sugar Bowl Bakery’s decision to expand with a new facility, but a strong labor market was priority No. 1 when deciding where that bakery should be located.

Joel Feldman, president and chief operating officer, said the Hayward, Calif.-based company was drawn to the Atlanta area in large part because of the existing manufacturing labor force but also Georgia’s Quick Start Program. This program provides customized training through the state’s technical college system.

“As we bring people on, Georgia Quick Start provides broad food manufacturing training and then tailors it to our specific production lines as well, so our new employees understand what their job on that line is all about,” he said. “They create dynamic training and deliver it as well. It’s an incredible value proposition that they offer.”

The training program has been around for 40 years and is free to companies that are new to Georgia, creating jobs in Georgia or investing in new technology to stay competitive. The program can train across a wide range of industries, but for food manufacturing, Georgia Quick Start can train employees on HACCP principles, the latest FDA and USDA regulations, GMPs as well as custom skill sets required at each workstation. The program works closely with the company to tailor training specific to the bakery’s needs.