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Published by the Port of Walla Walla
2002 / 2003

A team effort, lead by the Port of Walla Walla, has resulted in the opening of a major juice processing plant in Walla Walla.

The nation’s largest independent private label juice processor, Cliffstar Corporation, has moved into the former Agri-Frozen Foods Plant and has its first 20 full-time employees in training. Gene Bailen, Cliffstar’s vice president of operations, said the plant’s first production will ship beginning in November.

Bailen said the new Walla Walla plant will begin processing what he called “the basics.”

“We’ll start with apple, grape and cranberry juice blends before moving on to more sophisticated varieties.”

Initially, Cliffstar will bring juice concentrates to Walla Walla from existing suppliers, although Bailen suggested the possibility of developing relationships with local vendors sometime in the future.

Headquartered in Dunkirk, N.Y., Cliffstar packages private label juices for grocery stores, mass merchandisers, food service companies and major retailers in the United States and Canada. In addition to the Walla Walla facility, the firm has operating plants in Dunkirk; Joplin, Missouri; Greer, South Carolina; and Fontana, California.

Plant Manager Shannon McFall explained that shipments from the Walla Walla site will go to customers within a 500 mile radius, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

Walla Walla County Commissioner Dave Carey, Cliffstar owner Stanley A. Star, Port District Commission President Fred Bennett and City of Walla Walla Mayor Jerry Cummins celebrate Cliffstar’s announcing a new juice processing plant in Walla Walla.

Cliffstar juices, including apple and cranberry blends, are processed for private label retailers across the United States and Canada

Port leads effort,
lands Cliffstar

McFall said that while the start-up crew will consist of 20 full-time staff members, she expects a second wave of activity to include another processing line and 20 additional employees beginning in January, 2003. The total number of jobs could climb to 100 within two to three years.

It all started when a consultant for Cliffstar Corporation surfed the internet, found www.portwallawalla.com, and discovered a potential building for a new juice processing plant in the Northwest.

Three months later, the Port of Walla Walla announced that the former AgriFrozen Foods facility, on Dell Avenue, would be the new location for the New York based, private label processor.

Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz called the Cliffstar decision a “major economic development success.”

 “Recruiting new companies to rural communities is a real challenge,” he said.

Sean P. McGirr, Cliffstar’s president, said the availability of the AgriFrozen Food building and the favorable economic development package offered by the Port of Walla Walla and other community groups were factors that influenced the company’s choice to locate in Walla Walla.

The Port purchased the closed AgriFrozen Foods building, funded necessary improvements, then leased the building to Cliffstar, giving the firm an option to buy.

Kuntz said the Port’s total investment will exceed $1.6 million.

In addition to the Port of Walla Walla commitment, Team Walla Walla, a public/private development partnership, provided $35,000 and Fluor Hanford added $15,000 to help offset Cliffstar’s costs associated with the opening of the Walla Walla plant.

Bailen emphasized, “The positive reception we received from the Port, Team Walla Walla, Fluor Hanford, Walla Walla County, the City of Walla Walla and Walla Walla Community College convinced us that Walla Walla is a good place to do business.”

Bill Clemens, president of Team Walla Walla, said, “Creating new family wage jobs has been our organization’s focus since its inception. Cliffstar, with its year around employment opportunities, will strengthen Walla Walla’s economy.”

Jerry Schneider, manager of Fluor Hanford Asset Transition, added, “Assisting the Walla Walla community in recruiting Cliffstar is part of our ongoing commitment to diversify the region’s economy.”

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