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Blue Diamond expands to Turlock

Almond processor to break ground at industrial park in spring 2012

POSTED October 4, 2011 7:28 p.m.

The City of Turlock’s $15 million investment in its industrial park paid off on Tuesday, city officials said, as Blue Diamond Growers announced plans to expand to the newly-renamed Turlock Regional Industrial Park.

Blue Diamond Growers, the world’s largest almond marketer and processor, said Tuesday its board had approved plans to purchase 88 acres at the intersection of North Washington and Fulkerth Road as a “major expansion location.”

“It's great for our community,” said Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden. “They're just a really great company...  It really does validate the vision of the council, both the current council who continued to invest and the former councils who had the foresight to create this.”

The Turlock Regional Industrial Park site – referred to as the Westside Industrial Specific Plan until council approved renaming the development last week – was selected by Blue Diamond only after an 18-month site selection process. Blue Diamond commended the park’s prebuilt infrastructure, ideal location, and an expedited permitting process enabled by the park’s pre-certified Environmental Impact Report.

“The Turlock City Council demonstrated great leadership by dedicating the resources necessary to provide the required infrastructure,” said Blue Diamond President and CEO Mark Jansen. “They also expedited entitlement processes necessary to meet or exceed our operations timeline.

“Turlock is exactly the pro-business partner we need to meet the difficult regulatory challenges in California,” Jansen said. “Turlock has shown it can provide the economic climate we seek so that we can grow together!”

The Turlock site is a lynchpin in the company’s 15-year strategy to expand capacity to meet surging global demand – up 13 percent annually since 2005. The company also expects to upgrade existing Sacramento and Salida-based plants as sales of snack almonds, Nut Thins crackers, and Almond Breeze non-dairy milk increase.

“The unprecedented growth in our Blue Diamond consumer brand and ingredient business requires us to expand our capacity beyond our Sacramento and Salida operations,” Jansen said. “... This plan will provide the capacity we need to grow as global markets expand and U.S. consumers demand more nutritional almond products.”

Blue Diamond Growers declined to offer specifics on the Turlock development, relating to cost, number of jobs created, or exactly what sort of facilities will be constructed, though an emphasis on automated technologies was noted. The company did say it expects to break ground in the spring, beginning onsite operations in 2013.

The spring groundbreaking will be the culmination of a site selection process which kicked off in April 2010, and throughout which Blue Diamond Growers remained an anonymous potential customer. Only Wasden knew Blue Diamond was the prospective company during what he described as an “exhaustive fact finding” endeavor.

The Turlock Regional Industrial Park ultimately won out over a number of sites in the Central Valley area, including expansions at Blue Diamond’s current Sacramento and Salida sites. In addition to the large parcels, zoning, and preexisting infrastructure, Turlock Redevelopment and Economic Development Manager Heidi McNally Dial credited Turlock Irrigation District’s low energy rates and the city’s existing water and sewer capacity as important drivers of Blue Diamond’s decision.

Already, the City of Turlock is hoping Blue Diamond Growers may attract additional businesses to the 2,630 acre Turlock Regional Industrial Park, which is expected to be fully built out in 2056. Wasden hopes Turlock might become home to companies which work with Blue Diamond, or to other “Blue Diamond-caliber” businesses.

Even if those specific businesses don’t materialize, Turlock already has some other companies currently in talks to open in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, McNally-Dial said. And even more businesses could be coming down the pipes, the city hopes, given site selectors’ positive experiences with the City of Turlock.

“Whenever they have a client that’s thinking of the Central Valley, I’m sure they’re going to look in Turlock,” McNally-Dial said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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