At least 150 jobs promised at Sunfest – Hang in there folks, next year sounds promising!

Not sure how many businesses can wait in Ontario, but a 150 jobs is better than nothing. I have personally watched the retail decline in Ontario while the food industry prospers, hopefully this will be a NEW beginning for many retailers who are barely hanging on. I suspect this is a good start, but won’t be near enough to keep it all going. With the current wage scales around here, many are only purchasing low end to get by until the economy fully recovers. This is only good for the few who do have good jobs in the area, not good for retailers bottom line and expenses. Just hope the jobs created are a living wage, my definition of a living wage? – One where you don’t get back more than you pay in to the Feds, tired of working in a retail environment where the only season you can look forward to is “TAX SEASON”.

Works in Ontario

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ONTARIO — Sunfest Organic Herbs’ expansion into the former General Motors stamping plant could take a year or more.

Demolition will begin immediately and could take eight months to a year, the owners of the new Ontario Business Park said Tuesday. New buildings are planned at the 200-acre site and the first new construction — for a second tenant — could be announced in the next few weeks.

Sunfest’s manager Clifford D. Rosen spoke during a 3 p.m. news conference at the Charles K. Hellinger Municipal Building, 555 Stumbo Road.

Company officials met with city leaders Tuesday to detail some plans at the former General Motors stamping plant. Sunfest Organic Herbs, based in Okeechobee, Fla., is the first company scheduled to establish operations in the new Ontario Business Park.

Rosen said Sunfest’s expansion in Ontario will be a farm production and packaging facility.

“We still have to go through permit processes working with the developer and getting plans done and doing feasibility studies,” Rosen said, noting he does not have a date for when the plant will start operations.

“We’re very excited in working within the plant and possibly outdoor greenhouses, too,” he said.

He said the company’s goal is to eventually create 150 jobs. He said the types of jobs include technical and administrative jobs.

Rosen provided few details about the pay ranges.

“The pay I can’t speak to specifically, but it won’t be minimum wage and there’s lots of different levels of employment that would be involved in a facility like that,” he said.

Ontario Business Park is a joint venture between Adler Group Inc., a Miami company, and The Hilco Organization, of Northbrook, Ill. Ontario Business Park is planned to be a multi-tenant corporate park.

Michael M. Adler, chief executive officer of Adler Group; his son David Adler of the Adler Group; and Roberto Perez, senior vice president of Hilco Real Estate, LLC; were among those who addressed the crowd of local people.

Michael Adler said he is excited about his first tenant.

“Our goal is to fast-track it, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done,” he said. “This needs to be a multi-tenant park for it to be successful for us and for the community. The first thing is we do have to do some demolition. We are doing that and hope that will be completed. That needs to be done before we can do the rebuild and build what is going to be new and we do have a lot of new facilities that we think we will be able to have come here,” Adler said.

Adler said he believes he may be able to announce a second tenant in a few weeks.

“We have meetings here tomorrow and we’re very excited about an opportunity we’re working on,” he said. “There is still an interest. We did hear from the original tenant we thought would be our first tenant here. You never know how those things go. … We’re not going to stop looking everywhere to find tenants so we can have this park prosper and grow and create the jobs.”

Adler said the second tenant is very real.

“It will be ground-up construction,” he said.

Last week, the business park announced a signed letter of intent with the organic herb company. Sunfest Herbs will use the Ontario site for the company’s expansion into the Midwest, including Chicago, Pennsylvania and the East Coast, Rosen said. The company currently puts products on trucks from Florida traveling north of Georgia in the Carolinas, Indianapolis and Washington.

Rosen said herbs don’t travel well by truck.

“To expand to the extent we hope to we need to be here,” he said.

“Everything we cut, these herbs need to be kept cool, from the second they are cut, they have to be kept at no more than 45 degrees, certain groups at 35 and 37 degrees,” Rosen said. “The closer we are to our customer, the fresher it is, the better it is, the happier they are and we are.”

Sunfest Organic Herbs sits on more than 1,200 acres in Florida, including the 380-acre certified organic farm site. He said Sunfest is farming 140 of those 380 acres and plans to grow 1.5 million pounds at that site, which is a year old.

Rosen said the Florida farm employs more than 100 people.

He said Sunfest Herbs can be summed up as “purity, health and organic.”

The company’s organic herbs are sold to national accounts including Kroger, Whole Foods, Walmart and Fresh Market.

Rosen toured the former GM building Tuesday for his first time, although he had previously seen many reports and photographs.

When it comes time to hire for the new Ontario plant, he said, Sunfest most likely will hold a job fair.

Roberto Perez, senior vice president of Hilco, said he has been coming to Ontario for two years now.

“I just want to say thank you to the community,” he said. “Everybody in this room, I see so many familiar faces and I really, truly feel like it is a family and we’ve come together and we’ve come a long way,” he said.

Phase I of the project is demolition and Perez promised the project will be done in an environmentally safe way while not impeding on the daily lives of residents.

Demolition is expected to begin this week on the facility’s north side. Up to half the old structure will be razed.

Written by
Lou Whitmire
News Journal
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