Olive company to open packing plant in S.M.
By Malia Spencer,
Officials with the Santa Barbara Olive Co. were set to purchase a building and expand their company south to Oxnard – until they saw what Santa Maria had to offer.
Now, the firm is looking to take possession of a building on Skyway Drive for a food processing and packaging plant that is slated to create 30 new jobs with the company, said Craig Makela, president of Santa Barbara Olive Co.
Opened in 1982 by Makela and his wife Cindy, the company started in a garage and has grown to see its products sold in all 50 states at major grocery chains and specialty shops as well as featured at restaurants such as Spago and Tavern on the Green.
The company’s facility now sits on part of a 101-acre olive farm on Calle Real in Santa Barbara, where the family has 5,000 olive trees along with wine grapes and an organic cattle ranch, he said.
The warehouse expansion will include processing the olive products and packaging, Makela said. Employees may be stuffing the olives, that were prepared on the South Coast, and then put them in either glass or plastic jars.
Makela plans to close the deal on an 18,000-square-foot building at 3070 Skyway Drive on March 18. Once necessary work is completed to the facility, it could be operational by mid-June.
But the move to Santa Maria almost didn’t happen.
Just as company officials were about to purchase a building in Oxnard, they took a trip north, just to ensure they were making the right decision, Makela said.
“Santa Maria made themselves as a community, and as a possible locale for our business, a significantly better business offer,” he said. “And the climate seemed to be very good for employment.”
He added that the area around the new building was clean, had good freeway access and “the surrounding area seemed much more conducive to a food processing and food packaging facility.”
With the city’s growth, officials also saw the potential for good long term employees.
The comparatively better commute – from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria, as opposed to Santa Barbara to Oxnard – also helped.
“We will have commuters, even myself,” joked Makela.
The company has a total of 50 employees nationwide, with many more during the harvest, Makela said.
Three corporate positions will be moved to the Santa Maria facility. Those employees already live in Santa Maria, he added.
An additional 30 workers, from plant operators, to warehouse personnel to basic laborers for stuffing and packaging will be needed.
Staff recruitment may begin by the end of the month with a staff in place by April or May to begin training and preparing for the opening, Makela said.
Officials with the Santa Maria Community Development Department say once any needed permits are turned into the city, the paperwork can be fast-tracked for a quick turnaround. But no applications have been submitted yet.
Santa Barbara Olive Co. has looked at Santa Maria in the past, Makela said, and continued a relationship with agents at Pacifica Commercial Realty. Those contacts helped with this transaction.
Bob Hatch, who heads up the city’s economic development activities with the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the olive company’s expansion furthers the city’s profile for business.
“It’s a great billboard for us,” he said, adding one business can lead to other related businesses, such as a company’s suppliers or vendors.
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