Ag-Fiber Manufacturer Genera Expanding Vonore, TN Facility

The maker of compostable packaging will invest $350 million to expand production and distribution at its Sustainable Biomaterials Campus.

In Vonore, Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter, and Genera officials recently announced the company will invest nearly $350 million to expand production and distribution at its Sustainable Biomaterials Campus in the town.

Genera will create more than 230 new jobs in Monroe County over the next five years, bringing the company’s total headcount in Tennessee to approximately 350 people. Initially founded under the University of Tennessee System, Genera has grown to become North America’s largest vertically integrated manufacturer of circular, compostable packaging solutions for food and consumer products, retail, and food service.

“Tennessee continues to be an ideal location for Genera to lead the transition to a biobased economy,” said company CEO Ben Mascarello at the December 6 announcement. “We’ve developed great long-term partnerships with local landowners, and we’ve built an extremely talented team. Robust financial commitments from our ownership group are enabling us to rapidly scale our manufacturing to meet the needs of our growing customer base.”

This expansion adds 150,000 square feet to the existing facility and state-of-the-art equipment, including more than 60 robotically controlled thermoforming machines, a fleet of autonomously guided vehicles, and automated packaging lines.

(left to right) Ben Mascarello, CEO, Genera; Troy Thacker, managing partner, Ara Partners; Bryan Hall, executive director, Tellico Reservoir Development Agency; TNECD Commissioner McWhorter; TN Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M.; Rep. Lowell Russell; Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram; Kelly Tiller, chief strategy officer, Genera. (Photo: courtesy TNECD)

Said Gov. Lee, “With a strong business climate, highly skilled workforce and sound infrastructure system statewide, Tennessee is poised to support new and existing business growth. I thank Genera for creating hundreds of new jobs for families across rural East Tennessee and look forward to the positive impact this project will have on the Monroe County community.”

“Agriculture is a key driver of our state’s economy and will be further strengthened thanks to Genera’s significant investment,” said TNECD Commissioner McWhorter. “This expansion would not be possible without dedicated community leaders that have taken the necessary steps to attract new business to Vonore and Monroe County, and we are proud to take part in helping bring this project to fruition.”

Genera’s products are made from locally grown regenerative grasses, offering consumers sustainable alternatives to plastics with direct benefits to local farms and communities and a significantly lower carbon impact. Genera is headquartered in Vonore, with an innovation center in Houston, Texas.

TN-Based Genera & NSF Regional Innovation Engines Team

The company is part of a team led by HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama that was awarded $1 million from the first-ever U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program. This team’s project is entitled “Advancing carbon-neutral crop technologies to develop sustainable consumer goods (AL, GA, NC, TN)” — “Greening the Southeast” for short. The project aims to develop a green, circular bioeconomy for building materials and consumer goods in the Southeast that reduces climate change impacts from manufacturing by eliminating industry reliance on petroleum and environmentally costly fibers.

Along with Genera, the Greening the Southeast team includes Alabama A&M University Winfred Thomas Agriculture Research Station, Auburn University, North Carolina State University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, the University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, Genera, the National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), and other agricultural and workforce development partners.

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