enters second Walla Walla year...employment climbs to 70
helps local business
David Larson’s dream of having his own business got
a jump-start when he turned for advice to the Walla Walla
Area Small Business Development Center in November, 2002.
SBDC Director Richard Monacelli gave him the advice and
support he needed to make David’s Aquacut
& Builders a working venture.
the process, Larson discovered that he had the trust and
respect of many businesses who would support his own plan
with letters of intent.
It soon became clear that there
was more than enough demand to make his own shop profitable.
So together, Larson and Monacelli developed a business plan
and loan proposal that was the basis for a verbal commitment
for up to $230,000 in bank financing.
With several contracts “in
hand,” Larson invested $7,000 of equity and secured
a $212,000 loan to launch DAB.
He refurbished the Blaze King building
at 400 West Whitman Drive in College Place, installed the
required equipment and, suddenly, found himself faced with
having to hire employees. It was a need he hadn’t
prepared for at this early stage.
Returning to SBDC, Larson worked
with Monacelli again, this time to identify group insurance
policies and other benefits that create the environment
that retains good employees.
Today, after less than a year,
Larson has two full-time employees and one halftime staff
member. He has successfully competed for metal working contracts
in Portland and Seattle and has been “pleasantly surprised”
at the number of signs, sculptures and other artistic projects
his firm has been involved in.
Larson’s outlook for the future of his young firm
is optimistic...and he’s making plans to expand.
its first year, Cliffstar Corporation’s Walla Walla
operation is on schedule and, according to company officials,
“right where we want to be.”
Walla Walla Plant Manager Shannon
McFall said the local facility is now operating around the
clock Monday through Friday and sometimes adding a Saturday
shift. Cliffstar’s local payroll has grown to 70 full-time
employees, more than three-times the number of workers who
began training little more than a year ago.
McFall said that while local volume
has increased significantly over the past several months,
the product mix is unchanged from original plans.
“We’re still sticking
to three sizes -- 64-ounce, 96-ounce and one gallon -- but
our shipments are going to a much larger area than we originally
thought,” she explained. “Juices processed in
Walla Walla are being shipped all over the country and into
Cliffstar’s initial plans for
its Walla Walla plant were to ship goods mostly to only Northwest
The company, which is the largest
private label juice processor in the U.S., has other plants
in New York, Missouri, South Carolina and California.
Walla Walla was selected for its
Northwest location as the result of a combined effort by the
Port of Walla Walla, Team Walla Walla, Fluor Hanford, Walla
Walla County, the City of Walla Walla and Walla Walla Community
As the lead agency, the Port of WallaWalla
bought and refurbished the old AgriFrozen Food building, on
Dell Avenue, then negotiated a “lease with option to
buy” deal with Cliffstar. The Port investment was $1.6
At the time, Cliffstar President
Sean P. McGirr said the availability of the building and the
favorable economic development package were factors that influenced
the company to locate in Walla Walla.
While major customers for Walla Walla
processed juices include Costco, WalMart, Safeway and Western
Family, McFall said recent packaging has been done for smaller
retailers like Fred Meyer and Winco.
In addition, McFall said the firm
is beginning to use increasing amounts of juice concentrates
from regional suppliers including apple juices from Yakima
Valley vendors and grape concentrates from Taggares Farms
in the Columbia Basin.
McFall said the Walla Walla plant
is currently bottling 93 different juice formulas in containers
that involve more than 240 different labels.
She said the local operation is now
operating at full capacity and there have been “discussions”
about adding another production line, “maybe two.”
“We don’t expect to do
any expanding during the next year, however,” McFall
recently recognized by the Eastern Washington WorkForce
Development Council as its 2003 Employer of the Year.
The Council oversees WorkForce services in Walla Walla,
Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, Whitman Stevens, Ferry,
Lincoln and Pend Oreille counties. Cliffstar was honored
for meeting specific WorkForce criteria and its outstanding
worksource development practices.