New pasta factory: It boils down to jobs

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Construction workers weld a piece of pipe on the exterior of the

Locals already satiated by Gilroy’s famous, pungent garlic will
soon have their olfactory glands hit by another aromatic
– and lucrative – smell.
Locals already satiated by Gilroy’s famous, pungent garlic will soon have their olfactory glands hit by another aromatic – and lucrative – smell.

At 120,000 square feet and packed with promises of rolling out 50 tons of pasta each day, the impending Monterey Gourmet Foods factory on Rossi Lane in Gilroy is expected to satisfy the city’s hunger not just for ravioli and tortellini, but for jobs.

It is expected to bring about 200 to 250 jobs – in fact – when the factory opens next month. The majority of employees are coming from the company’s Salinas site, which Monterey Gourmet Foods is shutting down because the company has outgrown it, Plant Manager Fernando Garay said.

“We extended an offer to all existing employees in Salinas. We understand not everyone will move out here,” Garay said. “It will create some opportunities for local people.”

The new plant will also add much-needed strength to Gilroy’s industrial sector, officials say, as much of the city’s financial notoriety has come from its retail shopping centers.

“It’s going to be quite an operation,” said Tammy Brownlow, president of the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, who recently toured the facility. “It’s another business that strengthens our industrial cluster.”

Several high-ranking officials from the company’s Kent, Wash., plant, which closed in July, also have been offered jobs at the new factory, Garay said.

It’s not clear how many positions will open up to Gilroyans, but Brownlow reiterated Garay’s stance that there will be some available to locals “through normal attrition.” Some employees who decide to stick with the company in its transition to Gilroy, however, might decide to move their families up U.S. Highway 101, Brownlow said.

“Obviously the company’s investment in the city is a major driver of our economy. There’s likely to be additional spending in the community,” she said.

If job predictions hold up, Monterey Gourmet Foods will be the eighth largest employer in Gilroy, according to numbers provided by the EDC.

Monterey Gourmet Foods, owned by South Korean-based Pulmuone Holdings Company, has invested roughly $25 million in the Rossi Lane site since it purchased the building and five adjacent acres in August 2011, Garay said.

The structure once housed California Door Corporation, Ferguson Enterprises and Performance Art.

Mayor Al Pinheiro said he was happy Monterey Gourmet Foods chose to consolidate in Gilroy, calling the move “a great opportunity for jobs.”

“Our staff at city hall worked very hard to provide MGF with all the support that was available,” Pinheiro wrote in an email. “Also, the fact that MGF is using an existing facility in our industrial area was also a great benefit.”

At its new site, Monterey Gourmet Pasta should produce about 100,000 pounds of pasta per day – roughly 30 to 40 percent more than what was produced at the Salinas plant, according to Garay.

“Gilroy had the size of facility we needed,” he said.

Recently, construction crews were seen coating the building’s interior with fresh paint and sawing lengths of pipe for a new plumbing system. The plant was scheduled to open around the end of September, but the grand opening has been moved to next month as crews continue a massive overhaul that’s turning the cavernous, blank slate of a structure into a well-tuned, compartmentalized machine, Garay said.

“This building was an empty shell,” he said. “We gutted it, started from scratch. None of the existing plumbing or any of the facilities were meant for food manufacturing.”

Inside the factory, a mapped-out maze of hallways and doors will keep worker traffic flowing and prevent cross contamination – raw materials are kept on one side of the factory and are processed through a series a rooms before they are packaged, Garay said. He added that eight hours of each day will be devoted solely to cleaning and sanitizing the facility.

“People say, ‘It’s easy to get lost. There’s a lot of rooms.’ We could’ve made one open facility, but that would’ve been a nightmare,” he said.

The factory will also feature a few eye-catching behemoths, such as two-story silos able to hold 30 tons of flour each. The jewels of the plant’s production center are its pasta rollers, made specially in Italy, dissembled for testing, then shipped to Gilroy, according to Garay, who remained tight-lipped about the machines for competitive reasons.

Once the plant is up and running, Garay said it would be his goal to welcome local residents and schoolchildren to tour the factory, which they can do from a separate, windowed hallway that navigates around the pasta and sauce production rooms.

“The company really believes in the people. They could have taken this company and relocated it anywhere,” Garay said. “It showed a great deal of confidence in the workforce we have here in the area.”

The company also plans on maintaining and creating partnerships with other local staples, buying garlic from Christopher Ranch and meat from Silva’s Sausage, Garay said. Also sought are deals with packaging company Temple Inland – which was recently bought out by International Paper Co. – and stick-on stalwart Creative Labels Inc.

“The investment’s here long term. This place will be here for a while,” Garay said of the new factory.

Monterey Gourmet Foods items are available throughout North America at Nob Hill, Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe’s, Garay said.

Gilroy’s largest employers

1. GUSD 990

2. Christopher Ranch 650

3. Olam International 500

4. Saint Louise Hospital 400

5. Walmart 395

6. City of Gilroy 274

7. Gavilan College 233

8. Monterey Gourmet Foods (projected) 200-250

9. Temple Inland 180

9. Headstart Nursery 180

10. Syngenta Seeds 175

10. Kaiser Permanente 175

According to the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation

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