In this sluggish economy, the news that two Hood River companies are expanding, breaking ground and building new facilities to increase production - and employment - has been met with welcoming ears.
When both projects are completed early next year, Turtle Island Foods and Hood Tech's new facilities will essentially be neighbors in the Port of Hood River's waterfront business park.
Turtle Island, father of the famous Tofurky and a variety of other widely popular vegetarian meat alternatives, broke ground last week on a new $10 million, 33,000-square-foot facility on 1.5 acres of land purchased from the port. The new facility will be utilized in addition to about 30,000 square feet Turtle Island recently leased from the port at the Jensen Building and its downtown Hood River factory adjacent to Full Sail Brewery.
Hood Tech, a company specializing in stabilized camera turrets, launch catapults for unmanned aircraft and equipment that monitors blade and rotor health of turbo-machinery, purchased the former United Telephone System building earlier this year and has contracted Key Development to renovate the 30,000-square-foot building (just east of the sewage treatment facility) into a modern office and production space that will be the company's new headquarters.
"The port is excited about retaining these local companies and providing room for their growth," said Jon Davies, Port Commission president. "Separately, they reflect different industries - one is an aeronautics system supplier and the other is a food processor - vital to our region. Combined, Hood Technology and Turtle Island Foods provide more than 100 local jobs."
Port staff noted that Hood Tech is expected to add about 20 new jobs and Turtle Island about 30 jobs once the expansions are complete.
Construction of both projects is expected to be complete late this year or in early 2012. Key Development Corporation, based in Hood River and Bend, is developing the projects.
Key Development specializes in environmentally sound, efficient projects and is aiming to have both buildings be LEED Platinum certified. The company noted that Platinum is the highest level of LEED certification and currently only one other food processing building in the world hold that level.
"We want this building to be consistent with the spirit and the mission of the Tofurky brand," said Jaime Athos, vice president of operations at Turtle Island Foods. "As more and more people look to vegetarian foods as a healthy, environmentally friendly way of eating, it seems only natural that this building should be a reflection of that mission."
Key development noted three innovations in Turtle Island's new facility: A solar hot water system will preheat the water needed for food processing and cut energy consumption by up to 40 percent; heat recovery from the refrigeration system will be used as a heating source where needed; high-efficiency mechanical and food processing equipment will be installed.