Produce wholesaler picks $22M plant
A family owned wholesaler, marketer and distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables is celebrating the opening of its $22-million facility.
State legislators, township officials, contractors, vendors and neighbors are expected to tour Heeren Brothers’ 178,000-square-foot plant, which includes corporate offices and distribution facilities, in Alpine Township today, at 1055 7 Mile Rd.
Through its subsidiaries and joint ventures, Heeren Bros. manages more than 1,500 acres of orchards, representing more than 75 family owned Michigan farms, and packs and sells more than 20 percent of all fresh apples grown in Michigan.
“We’ve been very successful in getting this new facility up and running, even in the midst of our busy apple-packing season,” said Hal Roy, CEO of Heeren Bros. “The new technology has already made us more efficient, allowing us to comply with tighter food safety standards, while being a better steward of our natural resources.
“Since we opened our doors in 1933, Heeren has continued to grow and innovate as a company,” added Roy. “This new facility represents a significant investment in our future and demonstrates that when we say we’re committed to growing in West Michigan, we don’t mean just apples.”
The produce facility
The company broke ground on the facility in October 2012.
It includes employee-focused amenities, such as dedicated workout facilities and an expanded employee lounge and break room.
The facility expands the company’s storage capacity by 19 percent, with 15 controlled-atmosphere rooms that enable Heeren to store more apples.
The plan features several other enhancements: technology that expands processing capabilities with new apple packing and grading lines with color and defect-sorting, as well as pre-sort capabilities; energy-saving refrigeration equipment and other energy-conscious features; exceeds food safety regulations and initiatives, including SQF 2000 and the Bio-Terrorism Act of 2002.
Heeren Bros. is seeking LEED certification for the plant’s environmentally friendly features.
The facility has 60,000 square feet for produce distribution and 11,000 square feet for corporate offices.
Heeren’s packing division, Ridgeking Apple Packing, invested $5.6 million in the remaining 107,000 square feet to double its capabilities with apple-packing lines that include color sorting, internal and external defect sorting and pre-sort capabilities.
Heeren Brothers started in 1933 when John and Elmer Heeren began a produce trucking business, bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from the South to sell in Grand Rapids.
Today, the fourth generation of Heerens has taken roles within the growing company.