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Niagara Bottling, LLC, Plans to Bottle Tacoma Water

The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.

Pierce County officials announced Wednesday that California-based Niagara Bottling LLC has plans to develop a $50 million, 311,000-square-foot bottling plant on 18 acres at the privately owned Randles Business Park in the Frederickson Industrial Area.

BY C.R. ROBERTS AND KATHLEEN COOPER; STAFF WRITERS
Published: June 27, 2013 at 12:14 a.m. PDT — Updated: June 27, 2013 at 12:14 p.m. PDT

Pierce County officials announced Wednesday that California-based Niagara Bottling LLC has plans to develop a $50 million, 311,000-square-foot bottling plant on 18 acres at the privately owned Randles Business Park in the Frederickson Industrial Area.

Following the expected approval by the board of Tacoma Public Utilities and the Tacoma City Council, construction might begin as early as this fall with an opening early next year.

To begin, the plant will provide 36 jobs with the expectation of future expansion.

The deal came as a result of a partnership between state, county, utility and development officials.

“Financially it made good sense from a transportation standpoint, and the proximity to our customers,” said Pamela Anderson Cridlebaugh, Niagara’s director of legal affairs, on Wednesday.

The company sells its own brand of bottled water, but the bulk of its business concerns bottling water under private labels for major retail chains.

“Ninety percent of our customers have a private label,” Cridlebaugh said.

At full production, the company will become Tacoma Water’s third largest customer, said Chris Gleason, Tacoma Public Utilities spokeswoman.

Current customers need not worry about a shortage, she said. In fact, Niagara’s business might mean a reduction in future water rates.

“We’re talking about one million gallons a day,” Gleason said. Only Simpson Tacoma Kraft, at 16.06 million gallons daily, and the City of Fife, at 1.41 million gallons, consume a larger amount.

The average commercial customer consumes 1,258 gallons daily, while the average residential customer consumes 241 gallons, she said.

A contract put before the utilities board on Wednesday mandates a minimum monthly payment of $9,614.43, with a discount for the first 7.9 million gallons per month rising to the established commercial rate after that amount is used.

“We will be making money for sure,” Gleason said.

The utility, she said, has “got a lot of extra water. If we don’t sell this water, it’s just going to sit in a pipe. Eventually, this will help lower the price for everyone. It won’t be immediate, but over time, yes.”

“Pierce County was extremely welcoming,” Cridlebaugh said. “It seemed like an easy place to do business, with permitting, and the county seemed very transparent.”

The company searched several sites in the Northwest, she said. An Oregon location was the primary final competition with at least two others in Pierce County.

“We’re really excited,” Cridlebaugh said. “We take our expansion search seriously. Pierce County meets our needs geographically, and also has that community fit, that intangible. (It) seems to match well our mission and principles.”

Established 50 years ago, Niagara operates a dozen bottling plants in nine states from California to Florida. The Frederickson plant will be the first in the Northwest.

“It’s a great company, and it’s going to be a good addition to the county,” said Susan Suess, senior vice president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.

“My first inkling that they were interested was last December, and it was not from the company but from the real estate community. A broker out of King County had a client that was looking. They contacted Tacoma Water and the county directly, saying they wanted to find a place that had adequate water. We didn’t know who the client was.”

In February, she said, the local team met with 10 Niagara representatives who had come north to visit a potential site.

“They were as interested in having a good fit with our community as with the site itself,” Suess said.

Other meetings followed, she said.

“We did a back-and-forth look at each other, and it became clear that they are a company that has great values. There’s still a bit of due diligence to do before the deal is finally inked.”

In a county news release Wednesday, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said, “Niagara Bottling is a great addition to the local business community. Niagara is a national leader in the industry, and building a bottling plant in Pierce County provides great access to the Northwest market.”

Gov. Jay Inslee stated in the release, “Other Northwest states were in the running for this innovative operation and these great jobs. Our Commerce Department worked in close partnership with Pierce County, the EDB for Tacoma-Pierce County and our business community over seven months to demonstrate the reasons why this community is a perfect fit.”

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535
c.r.roberts@thenewstribune.com
Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546
kathleen.cooper@thenewstribune.com

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