There were no shortage of numbers or important guests at The Hershey Co.’s official grand opening for its new $300-million addition that’s part of its WestHershey manufacturing complex in Hershey, Pa.

(From l. to r.) Hershey Chairman Jim Nevels, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, Philomena Krosmico, director of manufacturing and Hershey President and CEO John Bilbrey unwrap a large Hershey’s bar to officially open the new 340,000-sq.-ft. addition to the West Hershey manufacturing complex.

Pennysylvania Governor Tom Corbett, along with several other state officials and local dignitaries and representatives, joined Hershey’s Chairman James Nevels and President and CEO John Bilbrey in unwrapping a large Hershey’s Chocolate bar in lieu of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to declare the facility “officially open for business.”

“Today, we are celebrating our proud Pennsylvania heritage, the growing popularity ofHershey products in global markets, our continuing investments in productive technology and our great workers who make it possible to enjoy these iconic products,” said Bilbrey said.

The new facility features proprietary technology never before used in the manufacture of confectionery, such as a highly automated, large-scale Hershey’s Kisses operation that will produce up to 70 million Hershey’s Kisses daily. It also features the most technologically advanced, automated chocolate syrup production lines in the world. Advanced information technology systems using automated, real-time diagnostics systems will keep operations running smoothly 24/7, the company said.

“The West Hershey facility is a testament to the commitment and dedication of our tremendous plant employees,” said Terry O’Day, senior v.p., global operations. “I am proud of how our people have adapted quickly and recognized the opportunities provided by the latest technology. They contribute directly to improved quality, speed and efficiency. They truly represent the manufacturing employees of the future, operating one of the most technologically advanced candy factories in the world.”

The state-of-the-art, computer-controlled manufacturing processes include software and machinery developed and adapted by Hershey’s production line operators and managers. In addition to maintaining Hershey’s tradition of using fresh, locally supplied liquid milk to ensure consistent high quality, the facility also houses a fresh almond roasting plant.

The plant’s workforce includes about 700 employees who transitioned from the original Hershey plant on East Chocolate Ave. – the company’s oldest facility, which ran continuously from 1905 until its retirement in April 2012. The former manufacturing site will now house the company’s global operations team, occupying 450,000 sq. ft. of office space.

The expanded West Hershey facility is one of the company’s largest capital investments and represents one of the largest construction projects in Pennsylvania in two decades. The new development infused $70 million into the Pennsylvania economy and created more than 300 construction jobs. As a major employer in the state, the West Hershey plant is expected to contribute more than $1 billion to the economy of Pennsylvania over the next five years through supplier contracts, payroll and related spending.

The plant also continues company’s commitment to sustainability and the environment as the building expansion was a “Zero Waste to Landfill” (ZWL) construction project. The facility will continue to operate as a ZWL plant and the company is seeking to get a Silver Leeds certification.

The expansion at West Hershey is the largest component of Project Next Century – a program to modernize and upgrade Hershey’s global supply chain and ensure a competitive cost structure. Other recent investments in Hershey, Pa., include $50 to $75 million in upgrades to distribution and administrative facilities.

West Hershey is one of the company’s eight manufacturing sites in the United States. Locations include: Hazleton, Pa.; Stuarts Draft, Va.; Memphis, Tenn.; Lancaster, Pa.; Robinson, Ill.; Ashland, Ore. and the adjoining Reese’s plant in Hershey, Pa.

 Hershey’s new addition doubles the size of the company’s West  Hershey manufacturing complex in Hershey, Pa.