Industry News | November 21, 2012

Smoothie King Expands HQ in the Big Easy

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Smoothie King CEO Wan Kim announced the corporate headquarters expansion of Smoothie King Franchises, with the company committing to retain its headquarters in the New Orleans area.

Smoothie King will create 60 direct jobs over the next five years in a new headquarters location in Jefferson Parish.

The company will also retain 45 existing headquarters personnel, who will move from Smoothie King's current corporate office in Covington. The 60 new direct jobs will pay an average salary of $75,000, plus benefits.

Louisiana Economic Development (LED) also estimates the retention and expansion project will result in an additional 78 new indirect jobs.

"This is a great day for the New Orleans region and for our state," Governor Jindal says. "When we took office, we committed to our existing employers that we would improve our business climate, remove burdensome business taxes, control government spending, overhaul our workforce development system, and reform our educational system to ensure every child has an opportunity to get a great education.

"We have delivered on every promise," he continues, "and Louisiana success stories like Smoothie King are committing to grow in Louisiana and bring great new careers to the people of our state."

In July, global CEO Wan Kim completed a successful acquisition of Smoothie King Franchises from cofounders Steve and Cindy Kuhnau through his SK USA, Inc. firm, supported by investment partners Standard Chartered Private Equity and National Pension Fund.

While a graduate student in the U.S., Wan discovered the Smoothie King franchise and later developed a successful network of more than 100 Smoothie King franchises in his native South Korea.

"Smoothie King is a company with well over 20 years of aggressive growth ahead of it, both in the U.S. and globally," Kim says. "We are making a long-term commitment to realize this potential. We plan to open more than 1,000 new locations both in the United States and internationally by the end of 2017. A new international location is already scheduled to open in Singapore by December 2012. More new international locations across Southeast Asia and China will follow beginning in 2013."

After the July sale of the company, LED's Business Expansion and Retention Group (BERG) joined GNO Inc., and the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission in talks about retaining the corporate headquarters in Louisian.

Smoothie King considered moving out of state, but elected to remain in the New Orleans area after negotiating an incentive package with the state.

LED will provide Smoothie King with a $2.4 million, performance-based grant, payable over five years. The incentive offsets lease payments and office improvements at Smoothie King's future headquarters office and offsets flight differential costs for New Orleans versus other markets.

"We are absolutely delighted to welcome Smoothie King's headquarters back to Jefferson Parish," says Jefferson Parish president John Young. "After being originally founded in Jefferson, we are thrilled Smoothie King's international headquarters is finally home to begin its next phase of expansion. 

"It is a testament to our business-friendly environment, our pool of talented professionals, and to the the opportunities we offer and to our progressive future on which we continue to build," Young adds. "We are looking forward to a healthy, long-term partnership with Smoothie King."

Smoothie King will begin initial hiring immediately and ramp up to 60 new headquarters jobs during the next five years. The company expects to complete its move to the new headquarters space by the end of the second quarter in 2013.

"The fact that Smoothie King was founded in Jefferson Parish and is returning to launch an aggressive growth strategy is indicative of both our entrepreneurial environment and our ability to provide the resources required for an international brand to be successful," says deputy director Jerry Bologna of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission.

Michael Hecht, CEO and president of Greater New Orleans Inc., says, "Smoothie King's decision to keep and grow its headquarters in the Greater New Orleans region, rather than move out of state, is both validation of our new business climate and a great opportunity for our community. We are thrilled that Smoothie King, a company born in Greater New Orleans, is now on a path to become a globally recognized brand. The result will be jobs for our citizens and recognition that Greater New Orleans is where innovative companies start, grow, and succeed."