Pacific Seafood reopens coastal processing plant previously decimated in 2013 fire
Tuesday, 14 August marked the grand reopening of Pacific Seafood’s Warrenton, Oregon-based dockside processing plant, a watershed moment for the supplier and the coastal fishing community behind a large part of the facility's operations, according to a company press release.
It was around this time last year that Pacific announced its plans to rebuild the Warrenton plant, once considered to be the area’s largest employer before a 2013 fire destroyed the structure.
The facility, which was built in 1941 and acquired by Pacific Seafood in 1983, provided more than 100 full-time jobs in Warrenton before the fire. Many of those employees continued to work for the company in the days and years that followed, and were recognized for their commitment during the reopening ceremony for the now state-of-the-art processing plant on Tuesday.
“I’m hard pressed to think of a bigger achievement than being one of the 62 team members who have stayed with us since the fire,” Pacific Seafood CEO Frank Dulcich said.
During the ceremony, Dulcich presented a group of Pacific team members – all of whom had been with the company since the fire – with a challenge coin, a tradition at the firm to commemorate key accomplishments and events.
It wasn’t only from within that Pacific received support for its Warrenton reconstruction – Dulcich also recognized the community of the coastal Oregon city for its "incredible support" during the plant's re-opening ceremony. Special thanks was directed to Oregon Senator Betsy Johnson and coastal legislators, the governor’s office, Business Oregon, former and current Warrenton mayors Mark Kujala and Henry Balensifer, as well as the Warrenton city council.
The value of seafood processing to Oregon’s overall economic vitality has not been lost on Senator Johnson, who urged the state government to do more in terms of supporting seafood processing ventures moving forward.
“Pacific’s investment will help ensure that seafood continues to be one of the largest contributors to net earnings in Clatsop County,” Johnson said during the Warrenton event on 14 August. “Oregon’s rural and coastal communities have not experienced the same economic growth enjoyed recently by our urban centers. State government needs to do more to support coastal industries like seafood processing and encourage the significant economic and social benefits that they provide.”
Pacific’s updated Warrenton facility is expected to provide a boon to state and local government, the company said. This includes an estimated USD 220,000 (EUR 194,546) annually in landing fees to Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Warrenton plant has received a technical upgrade that includes a first-of-its kind technology that cleans waste water while also conserving water. Pacific Seafood said it’s the first seafood processor on the U.S. West Coast to use the environmentally sustainable technology and “[hopes] it will prompt other companies to make similar investments.”
Additional features of the 78,000-square-foot facility include:
- Two-story cold storage
- Expanded team member amenities
- New, sustainable waste water system
- Ease of distribution of Oregon-caught seafood, both nationally and internationally
- Operates year-round
- Processes fresh and frozen fillets, H&G, value added, cooked frozen crab, and consumer ready products
- Able to offload numerous vessels at a time due to multiple cranes
The plant is expected to achieve BRC Global Standards certification by the end of this year, Pacific said. It will mainly process Dungeness crab, steelhead, whiting, and groundfish. Pacific rockfish, one of the groundfish species that will be processed in Warrenton, was offloaded by F/V Pacific Conquest to close out the festivities at the facility on 14 August.
This return to Warrenton has always been part of the plan for Pacific. A day after the fire decimated the site in 2013, Dulcich made a promise to local team members, Pacific Seafood’s General Counsel Dan Occhipinti said.
“The day after the fire, our CEO Frank Dulcich visited the damaged site and made the commitment in front of our team members that we would rebuild,” Occhipinti told SeafoodSource in 2017. “We haven't wavered from that since.”
In what has come to be known by Pacific and the city of Warrenton as “the seven-day miracle,” the company swiftly relocated its operations to nearby Astoria, Oregon immediately following the 2013 blaze, and had its temporary site up and running only a week after the incident, with all employee wages paid, even during downtime. Due to Astoria’s close proximity, Pacific was able to continue its work with North Oregon’s local independent fleet before the move back to Warrenton this week.
A family-owned and operated company, Pacific was founded in 1941 and has its headquarters based out of Clackamas, Oregon. It employs more than 3,000 team members across 41 facilities in 11 states.