A Midwest business that operates frozen-food warehouses around the country is expanding to Charleston County, drawn partly by the port and a growing hunger overseas for U.S. poultry and other meats.

Hiring information

Millard said it will begin hiring for its North Charleston warehouse in mid-2013. Anyone interested in job openings should go to www.millardref.com and click on the “Careers” icon.

Millard Refrigerated Services said Wednesday it plans to invest $42 million and create 87 jobs at a cold-storage distribution center it will build next year in Palmetto Commerce Park.

The Omaha, Neb.-based company will use the warehouse to freeze and store poultry, pork and beef products that will be shipped overseas through the Port of Charleston.

Millard said it expects to begin construction in the spring and start operations at 7748 Palmetto Commerce Parkway by 2014.

“The team at Millard is excited about the business opportunities with our new operation in Charleston County. The facility will give us access to the world-class port in Charleston and provide an efficient hub for our customers along the East Coast and throughout the Southeast,” said Lance Larsen, president and CEO.

A $3.75 million grant from the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, an arm of the S.C. Commerce Department, also factored into the Millard expansion.

The grant, which is funded with state gas tax collections, can go toward road improvements, land puchases, rail spurs, site work and utility needs. The grant slightly exceeds the $3.3 million Millard paid for its 22-acre site over the summer.

Founded in 1963, Millard describes itself as the second-largest refrigerated warehouse company in the nation.

Its North Charleston site is served by a rail line, and the building will go up in stages based on demand, said Tim Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

At capacity, the refrigerated structure will be able to house about 25,000 pallets of frozen-food products, he said.

“We haven't completely settled on the phase one footprint yet,” Smith said. “A lot of that will be driven by our ability to secure customers.”

On the export side, Russia, southeast Asia and Africa are among the key destinations for the perishable “protein” commodities Millard will be handling in North Charleston, he said.

The State Ports Authority has been actively courting shippers of heavy agriculture goods as it looks to tap into the growing volume of trade that will flow through an expanded Panama Canal in the next few years.

SPA Chief Executive Jim Newsome said in a statement welcoming Millard on Wednesday that exports of refrigerated cargo “have continued to rise” from South Carolina.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.