PETALUMA -- Amy's Kitchen, maker of prepared natural and organic foods, plans to reconfigure its Santa Rosa and Oregon operations as the planned opening of a $63 million East Coast production facility has been pushed back "a few years."
This past spring, Amy's acquired a 125,000-square-foot former Sara Lee plant in the Upstate South Carolina city of Greenville. That facility was to employ up to 700 over six years.
But on Monday, the Petaluma-based company announced that the "complex process" of engineering and construction planning the facility retrofit for Amy's needs calls for another year of work. That pushes the opening until 2013 or 2014, according to Mark Rudolph, chief financial officer.
As company sales and production needs have grown to a "critical point," Amy's decided to reconfigure existing operations, which includes plants in Santa Rosa, Medford, Ore., and a small plant in the United Kingdom.
"Right now, in order to keep pace and be fiscally responsible to all of our stakeholders, we are forced to take immediate action and use resources we have at hand for expanding our capacity," said Mr. Rudolph. "This means we urgently need to turn our attention to problem solving with existing and fully operational plants in Oregon and California."
Amy's Kitchen is diverting human and financial resources at the moment to upgrading the Medford facility to give the company production capacity estimated to suffice client demand for the next two or three years, he said. A 140,000-square-foot new warehouse at the 50-acre Medford property is set for completion in late January. Now, it's being upgraded to start producing foods. The added manufacturing capacity is set to come on line by June.
"We will continue to have capacity demands on the West Coast," Mr. Rudolph said. "This addresses it sooner than we would have originally."
When the Medford project is done, the company will decide how to proceed with engineering firm recommendations for retrofitting the South Carolina plant. The company recently signed agreements with South Carolina government officials for incentives to set up the plant within six years.
Around the same time this year Amy's announced the East Coast plant, the company started consolidating two Santa Rosa facilities and office staff as well as Central Valley operations into a 110,000-square-foot leased facility in southwest Santa Rosa.
One element being considered for the Santa Rosa facility is shipping products by rail, according to Mr. Rudolph. The company has made initial inquiries with the building owner and NWP Co., the operator of the newly restarted freight service in Sonoma County, about reopening a rail spur to the building.
Also part of the Medford warehouse project is a rail spur. About 60 percent of company shipments are to destinations east of the Mississippi River, making freight rail from West Coast facilities and, eventually, an East Coast plant important, Mr. Rudolph said.
Amy's Kitchen employs 1,400.
This story was updated to include details from an interview with Mark Rudolph: upgrades in Medford and possible rail spur in Santa Rosa.