PLANT CITY, FLA (August 30, 2010)—A recent ribbon cutting ceremony helped mark the change in ownership at a warehouse that rivals the size of some shopping malls.
Officials with Gordon Food Service were joined by city and county officials at the ceremony at the 1 million-square foot warehouse. Gordon Food bought the warehouse from the Albertsons supermarket chain this year for an undisclosed price.
The Aug. 6 ceremony included a luncheon and tour of the facility on 158 acres off Park Road. About 200 people were on hand.
Gordon bought the warehouse as its food distribution business in the state continues to expanded, said Scott Nicholson, the company's general manager for Florida.
"Based on our historical growth in Florida it became evident that we needed to expand our distribution network in Florida," Nicholson said. "With our Ocala and Miami centers near capacity it became necessary for us to locate a distribution facility in the central Florida area and Plant City was the right solution."
Gordon Food Service distributes to foodservice customers such as schools and hospitals and its own GFS Marketplace stores. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company reported $7.2 billion in overall sales and has 10,000 to 11,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada.
GFS has 125 employees in Plant City. Plans call for expanding to 350 full-time employees.
Charles Harris, the chairman of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce, said the city was pleased to welcome the company.
"Gordon Food Services has committed their business to viewing the customer as king," Harris said. "They see their employees as a vital asset to their team. I believe the GFS values align perfectly with the way our town works. Their addition is a welcomed boost to our local economy."
Gordon Food Service is a fourth generation, family-led company with a history that dates back 113 years.
Company President Jim Gordon and Nicholson first visited the offices and warehouse facility in August 2009. Albertsons, which owned the complex for 16 years, continues to lease about 10 percent of the warehouse and office space.
The warehouse complex is northwest of the Randy L. Larson Softball Four-Plex on the renamed Gordon Food Service Drive, formerly Albertsons Drive. The warehouse includes freezers and refrigerated space for storage of frozen and perishable foods.
Warehouse manager Lemonde Rush, who moved from the Miami facility, said the transportation and inventory is automated and state of the art.
"Our drivers check the barcode on all the items loaded and unloaded during each trip," Rush said. Once they return to the warehouse, all deliveries are checked and verified electronically. The system works well, and it takes a lot of pressure off the inventory and saves time for everyone."
Jim Gordon said the offer by Albertsons was hard to ignore.
"I first heard about the opportunity to expand into Plant City in early 2009," Gordon said. "Even though the economy was being challenged, and our plans for expansion in Florida were two years out, when we found out about the quality, location and availability of this facility we decided to make an offer."
Gordon and Nicholson were accompanied on their August 2009 visit to Plant City by other corporate officials and facility experts. They liked what they saw in the community.
"Plant City is a lot like Grand Rapids in that it is a town with strong traditions and conservative values," Gordon said. "Grand Rapids is a great place to raise a family, and I hear much the same thing about Plant City."
"I have to say it was amazing to me and greatly appreciated to see the turnout and welcome that we received at the ribbon cutting event," Gordon said. "To see the turnout by city officials, chamber members and residents of this community and to realize how supportive they are is humbling for us."
Mayor Dan Raulerson said the company is a "perfect fit" for Plant City.
"Their investment and employment is a welcomed boost to our local economy," Raulerson said. "We are glad and thrilled to have Gordon's rapid expansion as part of the improved economic picture in Plant City. This is like a light shining in the distance; a great sign for Plant City.
"We welcome new growth and new companies that bring with them payrolls, taxes, charitable involvement and quality jobs. Gordon Food represents a huge economic impact for the city and a positive turn in our local economy."