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Oxnard food processor closing, tri-county farm workers laid off

By   /   Friday, February 12th, 2016  /   Comments Off on Oxnard food processor closing, tri-county farm workers laid off

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Alex Kacik

Alex Kacik

Oxnard-based food processing company Coastal Green Vegetable Co. is closing after 27 years in business.

Coastal Green contracts with growers of cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, kale, spinach and other produce, freezes the food and sends it to repackagers.

Increasing costs have slimmed margins, President and General Manager James Pickworth said. About 34 full-time employees and 100 seasonal workers will be out of a job in March. The company reported 88 permanent layoffs taking effect on March 18, according to the most recent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Report posted by the California Employment Development Department.

“The pricing has gone up from growers and we haven’t been able to sustain on the sales side,” Pickworth told the Business Times.

Increasing water costs, regulations, wages, health care, changing food preferences and the strength of the dollar have cut into Coastal Green’s profit margin. A strong dollar is a double-edged sword for businesses, driving the cost of imports down but making exports more expensive.

Pickworth aims to sell the business, which would make sense for a vertically integrated company looking to scale up, he said.

“Oxnard and Ventura County are awesome places for this type of business,” Pickworth said. “It’s unfortunate the economics make it difficult to sustain.”

The high cost of land and labor has driven out many Ventura County food processing operations, said Bruce Stenslie, president and CEO of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County. On top of that, zoning ordinances limit certain types of food processing like onsite cooking.

Increasing food processing capabilities would create thousands of jobs and double the value of the region’s agricultural land, Stenslie said, creating a $365 million economic impact and adding 2,600 to 5,400 jobs

“We are three to six times underinvested in food processing compared to our California peers,” Stenslie said.

Coastal Green has a 36,000-square-foot processing facility in Oxnard on about 3.7 acres at 650 Buena Vista Ave. Woolf Farming & Processing acquired the company in 2009.

Another Oxnard-based farm had to scale back its operations in Santa Maria.

El Dorado Berry Farms, which grows berries for Driscoll’s, laid off 654 workers last year due to “the rising cost of resources,” according to a news release.

Santa Maria-based Superior Farming also laid off 225 employees in August, according to the EDD.

Camarillo-based MAC Berry Farms laid off 90 workers as well in July.

New real estate firm

Commercial real estate broker Pam Scott, formerly of Lee & Associates, has broken out on her own.

Her new firm is called GPS Commercial Real Estate Services. Scott plans to use her 35 years of tri-county commercial real estate experience to help broker deals in the region’s retail market.

As part of Scott’s strategy, she intends to provide a better split for brokers choosing to work remotely, with her firm providing back-office processes like marketing, accounting and website management.

Commissions are split between the listing agents and the brokerage firms, which provide the technology and coordination to host listings, the marketing support to spread the word and client referrals.

After her new firm gains traction, she envisions getting into other CRE services such as property management.

Scott has recently finished long-term lease renewals of Wells Fargo branches at 11 E. Ponderosa Drive in Camarillo and 2831 Saviers Road in Oxnard, as well as the Bank of America at 2060 S. Broadway in Santa Maria.

Cooking up an expansion

Jeannine’s Restaurant and Bakery on Upper State Street is expanding.

Owners Gordon and Eleanor Hardey just signed a lease, orchestrated by Scott, for the 1,065-square-foot space at 3601 State St. It was formerly occupied by Denmun Office Solutions and Paul Brombal Coins & Jewelry, which moved into a space at 3000 State St.

The immediate need is parking for its 3607 State St. restaurant; a commercial kitchen would be a long-term goal pending city approval, Gordon Hardey said.

“Having three more spaces will bring us more income than the rental of the building and it would help build customer relationships,” Hardey told the Business Times.

In the meantime, Jeannine’s will use it to store some equipment from the Westlake location, which opened just more than a year ago and is doing well, Hardey said.

It’s a big undertaking to accommodate a few extra parking spaces but, then again, it is Santa Barbara.

• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]

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