$35 million project in works at Preferred Freezer Services

A massive freezer storage facility in north Richland is about to get bigger.

Preferred Freezer Services has begun a $35 million expansion project that will add space and jobs.

“We’ve been moving dirt for several weeks now,” said Burnie Taylor, director of major capital projects for Preferred Freezer Services. “And we have an expected opening of Nov. 1.”

This addition to the original facility, which opened at 2800 Polar Way in north Richland in July 2015, will add more than 200,000 square feet.

Taylor said the company bought 8.6 acres to support the expansion.

“It will have 204,000 square feet, 15.8 million cubic feet of storage, and room for 45,000 additional pallets,” Taylor said. 

The original facility, built four years ago, cost $115 million and it dominates the north Richland landscape, standing 120 feet tall, with 455,000 square feet of space and 313,000 square feet dedicated to automated freezer space.

The facility handles more than two billion pounds of food a year. And now, like then, it’s still all fruits and vegetables. No proteins.

“The demand for storage is high, especially in agriculture,” said Taylor, who was the Richland plant general manager in 2015. “(This expansion is) basically adding over one-third of the size of the original building.”

He expects the expansion to add about 75 new jobs, bringing the company’s workforce close to 300.

“It will be a mix of jobs that will include warehouse positions, operations people, mechanics and drivers,” he said. “It won’t be new technology, but the similar technology we have right now.”

Victory Unlimited Construction of Indianapolis is the general contractor on the project.

In addition to the Richland building, Taylor also is overseeing new projects going up in Dallas, Houston and New Jersey

“We’re in the process of building two to three new buildings a year,” he said.

Preferred Freezer Services started in 1989 with 25 employees in a 1.3 million cubic-foot refrigerated warehouse in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

The company brought in $3.6 million in revenue that first year.

Today, the company has 39 facilities in six regions in the United States, 2,200 employees and $394 million in sales. It also has facilities in China and Vietnam.

The Richland facility sees trucks coming and going day and night.

The storage building is fully automated, with a monorail system. Employees working in a control room monitor the system.

About 65 percent of the facility’s inbound receivables arrive via automated shuttle trucks. The product is taken from those trucks to a pickup location, where it’s transported by monorail trolley system to the freezer. It’s called an automated storage/retrieval system, or AS/RS.

The remaining 35 percent of delivered product is handled in a more traditional way with forklifts prior to being brought into the AS/RS.

Outbound orders flow through the same automated systems prior to delivery at the loading docks.

Forklift operators then take the product from the dock to trucks and rail cars. Other workers load and unload pallets in bays in 36-degree temperatures.

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