BURLEY — A $90 million fully automated frozen storage facility is coming to Burley next spring.
NewCold, a Netherlands-based cold storage company, plans to build a 25 million cubic-foot, sub-zero cold storage warehouse, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S. The big announcement was made Thursday at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C.
Local leaders hope this latest investment in Mini-Cassia will help put Idaho at the forefront of foreign direct investment discussions.
“There’s a lack of frozen storage space for frozen foods that are processed,” Burley Economic Development Director Doug Manning told the Times-News. “I think NewCold is a real game-changer for us. Other things will develop because of this.”
The NewCold facility will create between 65 and 75 new jobs. People in these high-skilled positions will help monitor the automated machinery that labels and scans the product, Manning said.
“What brought us here was the state of Idaho and their leading position in food processing, and as an experiment of that, McCain,” Jonas Swarttouw, U.S. country manager for NewCold, said during the announcement. “McCain expanded their plant in Idaho ... and they wanted to team up with somebody who would develop and operate the most advanced automated cold store they could imagine.
“… Fortunately, we’re already working with them in the U.K. and in Australia, so they knew what they were getting,” he said.
The city of Burley has had several major expansions lately in food processing and packaging. Most recently, Fabri-Kal received a building permit for a $4.2 million addition to its Burley plant, adding roughly 75,000 square feet. Packaging Specialties also received a permit for a $950,000 addition.
Both of those businesses have come into Mini-Cassia just in the past few years, Manning said.
“We love the fact that we have businesses that are relatively new to our area expanding,” he said.
NewCold earlier this year expanded into the U.S. with a warehouse in Tacoma, Wash. That warehouse focuses mostly on frozen seafood, Manning said.
The Burley storage warehouse will be similar, with low oxygen and sub-zero temperatures.
“Nothing can burn there because there’s not enough oxygen,” Manning said.
NewCold officials told The News Tribune that robots inside the Tacoma warehouse operate in temperatures of 5 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Nearly 50 employees there drive forklifts and run, repair and monitor the robots that do the heavy-lifting.
“Providing state-of-the-art, conveniently located cold storage is a critical part of keeping Idaho producers’ operating costs down and our value-added Idaho products competitive in the dynamic global market,” Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in a statement. “This huge new addition to our food distribution chain will help keep Idaho on the leading edge of innovation when it comes to farm-to-market efficiency and delivering high-quality, Idaho-grown foods to the world.”
Nobody ever touches the product at the warehouse, Otter said during the announcement, because “It all happens, frankly, with robots.”
The 140-foot high, 180,000 square-foot building will serve frozen food processors throughout the area. Swarttouw said there was talk at the conference of even including the dairy industry.
“We are excited to offer a competitive edge to existing and new Idaho food processors, and provide jobs in robotic software, systems operations, and automation in Burley,” he said in a statement.
NewCold will build next to Watco Transportation Services’ short line rail facility, which will help transport perishables. Watco can ship fresh and frozen product to the eastern U.S. in six to nine days, the Times-News previously reported.
NewCold operates a European network of cold storage facilities and refrigerated transport for frozen food producers. It has warehouses in France, Poland, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The choosing of the SelectUSA Investment Summit for the announcement was no coincidence. Idaho is a major sponsor of the Select USA summit and was an early-adopter of the event, Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar said. In past years, Idaho and local officials have had the chance to tout the state in front of international companies.
“Last year we were announcing an investment in eastern Idaho that had resulted from this conference,” Barigar said.
While NewCold’s decision to come to Idaho didn’t result from the SelectUSA summit, with international media attention on Thursday, south-central Idaho officials are hoping the rest of the world takes notice.
“Economic development is kind of about that long-term gain,” Twin Falls Economic Development Director Nathan Murray said.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said there has never been a better time for foreign investment in the U.S. market.
“In Burley, Idaho, right now we have under construction about $320 million worth of direct foreign investment,” Manning said.