Fast-growing food maker Amy’s Kitchen is moving forward with expansion plans in Santa Rosa, seven months after it shelved the idea of building a huge new production facility in the city.
The Petaluma-based company will begin producing a new line of entrees and snacks in a former food processing facility the company has leased in southwest Santa Rosa.
“Our growth has been faster than we expected this year, so we had to move quickly,” said Andy Berliner, who founded the organic frozen and packaged foods company with his wife in 1987.
The multimillion-dollar project is expected to create 150 new jobs, fewer than the 800 jobs once envisioned as part of a $50 million state-of-the-art facility first proposed in March 2013.
That project hit a snag when the company realized how costly it would be to hook up to the city’s water and wastewater system. It instead decided to build a $95 million facility in Goshen, N.Y., to be closer to its large East Coast market.
But the New York plant won’t be up and running for two years, and in the interim, the company continues to see significant demand for its vegetarian products. It forecast growth of 12 to 15 percent this year, but that number has come in closer to 23 percent, and would have been 30 percent if the company had sufficient capacity, Berliner said.
The strong demand for its products, combined with a positive relationship with the city of Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County BEST program, helped the company see that a more modest expansion in Santa Rosa still made sense, Berliner said.
Local economic development and utility officials helped come up with a package of incentives that is providing significant value to the company, said Carolyn Stark, executive director of Sonoma County BEST, an economic development initiative.
A combination of state sales tax incentives, attractive power rates from PG&E and water conservation guidance from the city all played a role in the company reaching its decision, Stark said.
“It’s great news,” Stark said. “I think what we have accomplished is amazing.”
Last month, Amy’s Kitchen signed a two-year agreement to sublease the 56,000-square-foot former home of G&G Specialty Foods on Bellevue Avenue. The building was built in the 1980s and was designed as a food processing facility, said Tony Sarno, a commercial real estate broker involved in the deal.
Sarno represented Montreal-based dairy company Saputo Inc., which closed the plant in 2011 after it purchased G&G’s parent company DCI Cheese Co. It has been trying to sublet the building ever since, and Amy’s has been interested for about two years, Sarno said.
The sublease may only be for two years, but the company has long-term plans for the site, Berliner said. “We hope this is a permanent operation,” he said.
In addition to producing Amy’s expanded entrees, the company plans to make a new line of taquitos and breakfast sandwiches at the new plant, he said.
The property is adjacent to a 9-acre pasture that once was eyed for a production facility up to five times the size of the G&G facility. That project was shelved in part because preliminary estimates put the total city fees for both phases of the project at $34 million.