Petaluma’s World Centric plans move to Rohnert Park’s SOMO Village

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World Centric, an eco-friendly Petaluma company that sells food containers and disposable tableware, has found a new home.

The 15-year-old company plans to move to Rohnert Park’s SOMO Village, a 200-acre development with a variety of enterprises focused on green principles and sustainable living.

Mark Marinozzi, World Centric’s vice president of marketing, said the company would have liked to stay in Petaluma, but it had trouble finding the right space in terms of size and aesthetic. SOMO Village, which started about the same time World Centric did, has both. The company signed a commercial lease for about 14,600 square feet and intends to move into the village this summer.

“SOMO Village has the unique blend of innovation, community and sustainability that World Centric was looking for in its next home,” Marinozzi said.

World Centric previously rented space inside the Foundry Wharf Building on Second Street on the Petaluma River waterfront. It’s an area local economic development officials have touted for upstart companies to grow.

From there, World Centric has become a leading U.S. supplier of compostable plates, cups, takeout containers, straws and other products.

World Centric started in 2004 as a nonprofit in Palo Alto aimed at educating people and raising awareness about environmental, social, inequality and human rights issues.

The organization, founded by an artificial intelligence software engineer named Aseem Das, made documentaries and hosted talks about its core issues, supporting its activities through the sale of Fair Trade products and compostable products.

The latter took off as the public became increasingly concerned about the high level of waste produced by the food industry. Marinozzi said the food service container and tableware sector, an $18 billion industry globally, has posted annual growth of 20% to 25%.

Compostables comprise about 4% to 6% of that, he said, driven by the public and local governments hoping to reduce waste in landfills and the effect of plastics on the environment.

In 2009, World Centric focused entirely on its sales of compostable products and became a for-profit social enterprise, donating at least 25% of its profit to grassroots social and environmental organizations every year since then. Those goals have a sympathetic ear at SOMO Village.

“They’re the ideal addition to our community,” said Brad Baker, CEO of SOMO Village, which spans about 600,000 square feet of commercial space in five main buildings. The campus, in southeast Rohnert Park, is about 90% occupied, Baker said. It has attracted a number of wellness and food industry businesses, including Traditional Medicinal Teas and Bassett Spices.

Marinozzi said leaving Petaluma was a difficult decision. Das moved the company to Petaluma in 2013, after friends suggested he consider relocating to Sonoma County, a region known for its strong environmental and local food movements. When the company announced it was moving from Palo Alto to Petaluma, some employees decided to relocate, too.

Now, the company headquarters, with about 50 employees, has outgrown its 8,000-square-foot space along the Petaluma River.

“The Foundry Wharf has been a great partner with World Centric,” Marinozzi said. “The ethos of Brad Baker and the SOMO Living team, as well as their commitment to the One Planet Living principles of sustainability, were also key factors in why we felt SOMO Village was a good fit.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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