A Prosser food manufacturer has begun a major expansion project in advance of moving its puree operations from Oregon to the Lower Yakima Valley.
Tree Top Inc. will close its Medford, Oregon, plant and move the production line to Prosser in 2023, bringing with it 40 new jobs. The Prosser plant, with a workforce totaling 100, produces juice concentrates, mostly apple and pear.
Prosser Mayor Randy Taylor is delighted with the news.
“Prosser is usually on losing end when a plant gets closed and moves jobs to another area,” he said.
“Those jobs are family-wage jobs. That’s a good thing.”
The move requires equipment upgrades at the Prosser plant and other improvements, to the tune of $6 million, according to building permits filed with the city of Prosser, though a Tree Top spokeswoman told the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business it will cost more because of equipment.
Construction already is underway at 2780 Lee Road, in the Port of Benton’s Prosser Wine and Food Park.
Fisher Construction Group Inc. of Burlington is the general contractor. The design-and-build construction services company has completed projects for Lamb Weston, Twin City Foods and J.R. Simplot.
Tree Top called the Medford plant closure a strategic move to gain an increased share of the growing fruit puree market.
Purees are used in a variety of food products, from baby and pet foods, to juices and yogurts.
Demand for purees has increased steadily over the past few years, with many domestic puree customers looking for U.S.-based suppliers due to food safety and supply chain benefits, Tree Top said.
The move also places Tree Top’s puree manufacturing closer to its fruit sources, resulting in additional production capacity, the ability to meet changing customer requirements, reduced transportation costs and improved manufacturing efficiencies, the company said.
This will allow Tree Top to effectively compete globally with other producers, improve operational stability and create opportunities for growth, Tree Top said.
Tree Top purees are typically used by commercial clients and sold in large quantities, ranging from 4-gallon pails to 55-gallon drums and 1,000-liter totes. The Prosser plant will manufacture mostly apple and pear purees.
Medford employees have the option to relocate to the Prosser plant or apply and/or work at any location within the company and continue their roles with Tree Top. Tree Top operates plants in Selah and Wenatchee, as well as Woodburn, Oregon and Oxnard, California.
“We put a lot of thought and discussion into this closure decision, and we care deeply about the Medford families who will be impacted,” said Tree Top CEO Craig Green in a statement. “We believe this move is vital to Tree Top’s continued growth and our ability to make quality food we’d proudly share with our friends and family.”
The relocation makes sense to Prosser’s mayor: “They’re a well-run company,” Taylor said. “They’re centrally located to the market they purchase from and the market they’re marketing to.”
Tree Top acquired the Prosser plant from Seneca Foods in 1999.
Selah-based Tree Top is a 700-member, grower-owned cooperative producing juices, fruit-based products and ingredients for consumers, and food and beverage manufacturers.
The cooperative employs 1,000 employees, including those of its subsidiaries.
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