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Blue Diamond a ‘game changer,’ mayor says

Blue Diamond a ‘game changer,’ mayor says

Blue Diamond President and CEO Mark Jansen speaks before Thursday's groundbreaking.


POSTED April 13, 2012 9:56 p.m.

Blue Diamond Growers broke ground on their massive new Turlock almond processing facility Thursday, but are remaining quiet about the development's costs or the number of laborers it will employ.
While numbers remain hazy, Blue Diamond was keen to tout the size and scope of their new facility, set to transform a former cornfield into the world's most advanced almond processing facility.
"Today we're making the largest single investment in the history of the almond industry right here in Turlock," said Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond president and CEO.
Blue Diamond staff declined to comment further about the development's cost.
Job figures will be determined in the coming months, Jansen said, as particulars of the facility are pinned down. Job postings will be made available in the fall, he said.
Turlock Mayor John Lazar has previously said Blue Diamond expects between 500 and 800 jobs at the facility in the first five years of development, serving as an "economic engine" for Turlock's recovery.
"When I was elected Mayor in 2006, I prayed for a game changer," Lazar said. "He gave us Blue Diamond."
Turlock was chosen for Blue Diamond's expansion following an extensive 18 month search. The site rose to the top for myriad reasons, said Blue Diamond Chairman Clinton Shick: easy access to Highway 99, proximity to growers, and, most importantly, the pre-built infrastructure and shovel-ready ground in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park.
"We found some very willing partners in government here that were welcoming," Shick said.
Blue Diamond's 88-acre site near the intersection of N. Washington and Fulkerth roads will eventually be home to about 500,000 square feet of buildings, following a 15-year growth plan.
The first phase, due to open soon as May 2013, represents an initial 200,000 square-foot manufacturing facility.
"That's a pretty aggressive schedule," said Ulli Thiersch, director of the facility's construction.
The initial facility is expected to blanch, slice, and process almonds primarily for Blue Diamond's ingredients business. The almond cooperative provides processed almonds to numerous other companies, used in common household staples like cereal and granola bars.
According to Thiersch, the development will likely include two blanched almond production lines and one natural almond line. Jansen said it will allow Blue Diamond to keep up with growing demand, adding capacity and reducing processing costs.
But the Turlock development will not supplant the company's existing Salida and Sacramento facilities, Shick said.
"This is not a relocation initiative," Shick said. "This is a growth initiative."

 

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