Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010
Fiber drum manufacturer opens shop in Merced
Despite tough economy, company hopes to hire more employees.
By JONAH OWEN LAMB
The economy may still be in the tank in Merced County, but on Monday night the city of Merced announced some good news -- the arrival of a new manufacturing outfit in town.
California Fiber Drums, a manufacturer of fiber drums used for storing tomatoes and other agricultural products, has opened up shop in Merced.
In February, it started retrofitting its 70,000-square-foot facility on North Highway 59. The company began operations in May.
"Tonight we are pleased to call to your attention that California Fiber Drums has selected Merced as its home," said Frank Quintero, the city's development director.
The news comes on the heels of a series of business closures across the city that have weakened an already struggling economy. In the last several years, Merced has seen a long list of companies close their doors: Gottschalks, Circuit City, Albertsons, Mervyns, Linens 'n Things, Arvin Sango, the Stahl Corp, 84 Lumber and BMC West.
So word that a company is opening rather than shutting its doors was good news for Quintero.
California Fiber Drums, which is leasing its facility from Merced Irrigation District's director Dave Long, has hired 55 people so far. It hopes to hire more as the firm expands, said Ariel Malagon, the company's vice president of operations.
Now the plant produces about 4,000 drums a day and hopes to increase production, said Malagon.
The company's choice to locate in Merced, company leaders said, was in large part because of how city staff wooed the company. "The reason we're in Merced is because of the people in Merced," said Richard Stiles, the company's president. He said they had looked at sites from Simi Valley to Merced and chose the city because its officials were the most helpful. "They wanted our business more than a lot of other cities," he said.
Quintero said Stiles, who had previously worked at the now-shuttered Michael's Cooperage in Dos Palos, came to the city about a year ago looking for a site to start his business. When Stiles came to visit, Quintero set up a service team which included everyone at the city Stiles would need to deal with in the permitting and inspection process. That, thinks Quintero, is one of the ways Merced can welcome prospective businesses.
While a sign on the office door at California Fiber Drums says it's no longer hiring, Quintero hopes that will change soon. He's "looking forward to the company growing."
Along with the nearly one in five Mercedians without a job.
Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com.