Report: Del Monte plans processing center in Pencader area

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Northern Delaware will build on its prowess as a produce center with word that Fresh Del Monte will locate a processing center at a long-vacant site that once housed the headquarters of a solar power company and later a middle school that never opened.

Dionysios (Dennis) Christou, vice president of marketing for the company confirmed the signing of a contract for the purchase of this building from the Christina School District for $6.5 million, with the deal expected to close on May 22.

Christou went on to say that the site will open during the fourth quarter of 2018 and will be a “multi-purpose facility where we plan to produce, among other things, Fresh Cut Fruit, Protein Salads, Sandwiches, as well as, ripen bananas and avocados.

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The facility will also have refrigerated and dry warehousing space, loading docks and business offices. Initially, the site wil have 27 qualified new full time permanent positions by December 31, 2019. and, as the facility becomes fully operational, we foresee the creation 300-500 direct labor position.

As the site goes into full operation, it could employ 300 to 500.

Christina Dirksen, spokesperson for the Delaware Economic Development Office, said the company has not applied for state assistance. \

Fresh Del Mone Produce is not affiliated with Del Monte Foods, which is based near San Francisco, CA.Fresh Del Monte operates worldwide has its headquarters in Coral Gable, FL. The companyhas afacility near the Philadelphia International Airport and in Gloucester City, NJ.

The buildingwas constructed as the headquarters for pioneering solar panel maker SolarPower, a company founded by a University of Delaware researcher. AstroPower later went belly up and sold some of its assets to General Electric, which later sold the business to Taiwan’s Motech. Motech no longer produces solar panels in Delaware.

Later, the building was sold to the Christiana School District for use as a middle school. Despite renovation work, the school never opened, due to changing attendance patterns and went back on the market as Delaware and the nation were going through a deep downturn. The building has long been vacant.

The Port of Wilmington is a leading inbound shipping point for produce, with a leadership position in bananas. Both Dole and Chiquita handle banana shipments from the port, with trucks bearing the logos of the two companies a common sight on area highways.

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