Church & Dwight will add about 180 jobs and a new production line at its plant in Jackson Township.

The New Jersey-based company, widely known for its Arm & Hammer brand, announced Thursday that it's making a $55 million investment at its York County facility, where it will churn out gummy vitamins.

Construction will begin in January at the company's 1.1 million-square-feet facility, and the line is scheduled to be operational during the first quarter of 2015, according to a company news release.

Hiring will begin late next year, as Church & Dwight fills 180 hourly and salaried manufacturing jobs, said spokesman Doug Petkus.

The additional jobs will bring the headcount to approximately 500 employees at the plant, which currently produces cat litter and laundry detergent.

A growing gummy vitamin business is driving the need for expansion, CEO James Craigie said in a news release.

In August 2012, Church & Dwight acquired Avid Health, Inc. for $650 million in cash and gained the market leader in gummy vitamins and supplements. Vitafusion--adult gummy vitamins--and L'il Critters--children's gummy vitamins are the company's major brands and will be made in York County.

Sales of gummy vitamins increased 20 percent to approximately $300 million this year, according to a press release.

Church & Dwight expects sales to see double-digit growth next year, and the local investment will meet that demand with a 75 percent increase in production capacity, according to the release.

The company will also continue to make the gummy vitamins at its two facilities in Washington.

It chose to grow in York because the company wanted to build an east coast operation to support the growth of the vitamin business, Petkus said.

Sweetening the deal was a $1.5 million boost from the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The state offered three grants to Church & Dwight: a $900,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant to facilitate investment and job creation, $540,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits and an $86,580 Guaranteed Free Training grant that will be used to train the company's new workforce.

The state money will "jumpstart the expansion" of Church & Dwight's gummy vitamin production facilities in Jackson Township, Craigie said.

It's an investment that will help create family-sustaining jobs in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said in a press release.

It's also an investment that will offer a quick return, local leaders said.

"To spend $1.5 million and get a $55 million investment and 180 jobs, that's a deal we'd take every day," said Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania. "And it's one that will probably have a short payback period."

The additional jobs will mean additional tax dollars in state coffers, he said.

It's also a boost to York County, said state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Twp.

"This is exciting news. It's great for Jackson Township and the Spring Grove School District," he said.

It's the kind of expansion that doesn't happen often, said Darrell Auterson, CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.

"Anytime a company bumps up local manufacturing jobs by about 200, it's huge," he said.

The geography of York County and quality workforce likely made it an easy investment for Church & Dwight, Auterson said.

"Our location offers a huge opportunity for companies to get their products to market because we're well within driving distance of every major city on the east coast," he said.

The state spending $1.5 million of taxpayer money to encourage the company to grow in York is how deals are done, Auterson said.

In the last 10 years, millions have been spent to keep or grow manufacturers in York, including investments in Caterpillar, Harley-Davidson and Johnson Controls.

"The turndown in the economy created heavy competition with other states. All states have to step up and do what they have to and recruit," Auterson said.

For example, South Carolina recruits companies by offering to build their new facilities, Grove said.

"That's what we're up against. So $1.5 million is a pittance compared to what we're up against," he said.

-- Reach Candy Woodall at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.