Pro Food Systems a ‘champ’ in Holts Summit

A metalwork Champ greets visitors as they enter the new 65,000-square-foot distribution center in Holts Summit. Pro Food Services, the company that produces Champs Chicken, unveiled the distribution center and national corporate headquarters Tuesday in a ribbon cutting and open house reception.

A metalwork Champ greets visitors as they enter the new 65,000-square-foot distribution center in Holts Summit. Pro Food Services, the company that produces Champs Chicken, unveiled the distribution center and national corporate headquarters Tuesday in a ribbon cutting and open house reception. Photo by Dean Asher.

A Holts Summit company on Tuesday celebrated a multi-million dollar expansion expected to add more than 40 jobs to the local economy.

Pro Food Systems, Inc. (PFS), a whole sale distributor primarily known for its Champs Chicken brand of foods sold in stores in Callaway County and throughout the country, held the grand opening of its new $6 million distribution center and corporate headquarters with a tour, reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

After drinks and mingling, Pro Food C.E.O. Shawn Burcham addressed a crowd that included employees, city and state officials, partners and backers in the nearly 65,000-square-foot facility’s warehouse.

“It’s great to do work with a company on a handshake — we do what we say we’re going to do,” Burcham said. “I do my best to surround myself with good people with common values and beliefs, and I have the pleasure to come to work with people who work hard and enjoy being around one another.”

An open house reception followed the speeches and ribbon-cutting ceremony, with guests touring the facility to see its break room, employee workout area, office spaces and demonstration kitchen where they sampled Champs menu fare.

PFS and the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) announced in October 2012 that the company planned to build the expansion, which will continue to add 43 full-time jobs with benefits over the following three years.

To date, the company has hired about half of those jobs, increasing its overall workforce by 40 percent.

The expansion took advantage of state grants and tax credits through an Enhanced Enterprise Zone established in Holts Summit.

The Champs Chicken brand started in 1998 out of Burcham and wife Julie’s then-home garage in Willard, near Springfield. Their first account soon followed in Callaway County, through Julie’s father Roger Moser.

Since then, the company has established more than 520 locations — 101 of which are in Missouri — in 29 states.

The expansion has placed the company on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. since 2009, and it’s one that State Rep. Jeanie Riddle called the “American Dream.”

Burcham credited Riddle and State Sen. Mike Kehoe’s help in resolving a regulation issue pertaining to Missouri’s Department of Revenue with enabling the company to stay in-state.

“It’s not without hard work, tenacity and many hands that you could accomplish what you have,” Riddle said. “I’m grateful for Shawn and the tenacity he had to continue to fight this fight. Thank you for growing mid-Missouri and allowing Senator Kehoe and I to be a part of the process.”

PFS received praise from local government officials, as well. Many Holts Summit representatives were in attendance, including City Administrator Brian Crane, who on behalf of Mayor Lucas Fitzpatrick, presented Burcham with a proclamation declaring Nov. 19 “Champs Chicken Day” in Holts Summit.

The city leant a helping hand as well. It applied for a $450,000 Community Development Block Grant with the DED to help build a new city street, Commerce Drive, to service the facility.

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