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Thinking Inside The Box – Visalia Manufacturer Expanding – Adding 75 Jobs

Kaweah Container Inc has purchased the 174,000sf former Alcoa/Reynolds plant on Goshen Ave in the Visalia Industrial Park.The 1970s built facility on 12 acres has been vacant for 6 years.

President of Kaweah Container Robert Reeves says the large facility is being remolded and equipped to make corrugated boxes mostly for the food industry.

Food making and shipping is big business in Tulare County and Kaweah Container has been on roll to capture more of that business.

“Since I came to the company in 2004, Kaweah Container has grown from around 17 employees to 170 ” says Reeves. The firm has facilities in Cutler,where if originated next to the Wileman Bros and Elliott packing facility – one now in Livermore where it makes boxes and Visalia – where they had leased a 77,000 sf office and distribution center. That building also housed the company’s corporate offices. The lease is up early next year.

“Now that we have purchased the Goshen Ave building we have a game plan to expand rapidly ” says Reeves – adding about 75 jobs. The schedule includes opening the new plant in January and being fully operational by mid-year.

“Our major customers come from the dairy, Mexican food and other frozen food business” says Reeves although the company also make boxes for field ag use as well.

The new facility will also be the corporate office for both Kaweah Container and parent company Wileman Bros & Elliott. Reeves says the new building will house around 100 hourly workers and 30 to 40 administrative staff who will relocate from the leased Visalia facility.

Helping to make the purchase possible is the sale of Wilman Bros & Elliott’s CCPI juice plant in Lindsay announced recently says Tommy Elliott.”We wanted to use the capital in what we see as our core business” he says. The firm has its roots in tree fruit and citrus growing in Cutler-Orosi and Visalia.

Tulare County has a major presence in the container and packaging industry including the number one player in the business – International Paper – with a big cup making plant in Visalia employing 320 and International Paper’s Weyerhaueser division employing 150 in Exeter at a corrugated box making plant.

Tulare County EDC manager Mike Washam says they will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for Kaweah Container in December. Washam says when Kaweah bought the building,a temporary tenant – GreenTech Inc, moved its small operation to a vacant building in Sultana.

Since the Goshen Ave plant closed in 2007, Reynolds sold the property to an investment group who sold it this month to Kaweah Container. The property had been on the market for $9.2 million in 2010 but sold for about $5.3 million.

Handling the sale were Doug Burr of Burr Commercial, Arnel Koster of Schuil & Associates and Matt Graham of Hyde Commercial.

Doug Burr says this year industrial property is selling for $20 to $25 per square ft. “The good news is that 90% of the buyers this year have been owner/operators” instead of just investors.

That means active businesses are filling empty buildings.

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