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'Only Constant Is Change,' Small Town Loses Corporate Headquarters

A couple of Oregon food processing firms have announced a plan to open a big, new cold storage warehouse in Salem.
It’s expected to add 35 new jobs to the area.  But it’s tough news for Stayton, where one of the firms has been based for about 90 years.

New corporate offices for NORPAC will be built in Salem.

New corporate offices for NORPAC will be built in Salem.

The $25 million cold storage facility will be built on land owned by NORPAC Foods. But the other firm, Henningsen Cold Storage will own and operate the 260,000 square-foot warehouse.

The two businesses have cooperated with each other for years.

NORPAC president, George Smith, says it’s the right time to expand.

“It’s a statement that we believe the food industry will remain viable and continue to grow. It’s a positive thing and an efficiency gain for us also.”

Henningsen plans to employ 35-to-40 workers in the new plant.

Smith says NORPAC doesn’t expect to add or lose any jobs.  He says the new warehouse will be the company’s primary distribution point for foods coming in from processing centers all around the Willamette Valley.

“During the harvest season we run a great volume of products all at once at our processing facilities. We freeze it individually and put them in bulk bins. We bring those bins into Salem to a packaging center. And as our customers order our products, we custom package that to their order and we will stage it in this new distribution warehouse for ultimate shipping to them.”

The plant will be an economic boon for Salem.  NORPAC also plans to build 30,000 square-feet of space at the plant for a new headquarters.

But it’s tough news for Stayton, where NORPAC has been centered since 1924.  Smith says the processing plant in Stayton will remain open.

“It’s our largest plant and it runs the greatest diversity of different products. That will continue to operate at full capacity and at existing employment levels.”

In Stayton, people don’t seem overly concerned about NORPAC’s  move.

Kelly Schreiber is with the Stayton-Sublimity Chamber of Commerce, “We’re just thrilled that the processing plant is remaining in Stayton. Oh Happy Day!”

Hank Porter is a retired high school teacher and former Stayton mayor.

“You know, it’s kind of a sad thing and yet the cannery isn’t leaving. Imagine what Seattle felt and Everett when Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago.”

Porter says Stayton is a bedroom community for Salem, so many headquarters employees will likely remain in town.
He says, the only constant is change.

“The real change came in the last 60s when the town used to be inundated in the summer with migrant people picking pole beans. And as the pole beans went away, almost instantaneously they converted all those bean yards into bush beans, mechanically picked. That was a real change in the community because there was no need for a bean festival or the things that went with that.”

The City of Salem will have to make some infrastructure improvements to allow for the new cold storage facility — like widening streets and adding sidewalks.

It’s expected to open next spring.

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