The next time Ruiz Foods announces an expansion, don't be surprised if it's another project in America's "Middle Belt."
An analysis of Conway New Plant Data from 2005 shows that 16 of the 25 largest food-processing projects this year have occurred in the midsection of the country, including five in Pennsylvania, five in Iowa, two each in Kansas and Michigan, and one each in Indiana and Illinois.
The reasons appear to be obvious. In addition to its longtime reputation as America's "Breadbasket," the Heartland has some of the best roads, highways, bridges, river ports, rail lines, airports and intermodal ports in the country.
Long-established distribution and logistics networks in places like Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Des Moines, Topeka, Pittsburgh and Houston make the Middle Belt of America a very cost-friendly choice for food processors seeking access to growing consumer markets.In the case of Ruiz Foods' selection of Denison, there is another benefit: proximity to rapidly growing consumer markets in Mexico.
Other major food company projects announced recently in this region include the following:
- Pepperidge Farm Inc. opened two new facilities in Willard, Ohio, in July a 114,000-sq.-ft. (10,591-sq.-m.) warehouse next to its existing factory and a flexible packaging center at adjacent Willard Industrial Park. Bob Furbee, senior vice president of operations, said, "Pepperidge Farm's decision to build these facilities in Willard reflects our confidence in the management and work force here, based on their high-quality performance over 28 years." The company employs 603 workers at its Willard plant and will add 10 jobs to support the new operations.
- Liberty Property Trust announced March 31 that it will build a 1 million-sq.-ft. (92,900-sq.-m.) distribution center in Upper Macungie in Lehigh Valley, Pa., for the Wakefern Food Corp. "The Lehigh Valley affords us access to our stores in southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware," said Dean Janeway, president and CEO of Wakefern. "This new facility provides us with additional space to better service our membership and prepares us for future growth." The capital investment by Wakefern includes the creation of 300 jobs.
- Bremner Inc. announced July 12 that it will open a new manufacturing plant in South Beloit, Ill., this fall. The firm plans to employ about 50 workers at the plant. Phase one production is set to begin this fall, but the plant operation eventually could increase to 200 employees.
- Pinnacle Foods Group Inc. announced in September that it will invest $13 million to add 14,000 sq. ft. (1,301 sq. m.) and 200 jobs at a plant in Jackson, Tenn. The facility, located in the Madison County Industrial Park at 96 Quaker Oats Drive, has 560 workers and 300,000 sq. ft. (27,870 sq. m.). "The chamber, Jackson Energy Authority, the City of Jackson, Madison County and various other community partners work together diligently to provide the incentives needed to grow business," Madison County Mayor Jerry Gist said. "The Pinnacle Foods expansion is the culmination of great teamwork."
- Hill's Pet Nutrition announced in March that it will expand its pet food plant in Topeka, Kan., by $30 million and add 50 jobs. Also in Topeka, Reser's Fine Foods announced a $22 million new plant that will create 60 jobs and 160,000 sq. ft. (14,864 sq. m.) of new factory space.