By Corey Evan
s the Pacific Northwest continues to grow in population, so does the demand for refreshments — at least, that’s what Swire Coca-Cola’s upcoming 108,000 square foot expansion of their Fruitland Production Center would suggest.
Ken Sheppard, a 23-year veteran of Swire and plant manager at the Production Center since 2015, outlined some of the plans for attendees of the Fruitland Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Jan. 8.
“This is full expansion,” as Sheppard described it.
The Fruitland plant first opened in 1986 by Southwest Canners of Texas, soon being bought by Swire as they expanded into the area. The plant was previously expanded in 2010.
Currently, the plant produces beverages bottled on two production lines. One of these uses aluminum cans and the other uses plastic bottles. Both are capable of various sizes from 7.5-ounce cans to 2-liter bottles, and both of those lines will be maintained.
The plans for the expansion call for a “high-speed” production line, to be dedicated to bottling beverages, such as Coca-Cola Classic in 12-ounce cans. The line will have capacity for up to 1,500 cans per minute.
“We anticipate somewhere between sixty- and sixty-five thousand cases a day,” Sheppard said. “We’ll take some time to build up to that volume.”
A new administrative office space will also be added.
The expansion also seeks to change the flow of traffic in and out of the plant, with a new route for both carriers and employees.
The plant currently produces up to 15 million cases per year, according to Sheppard’s calculation of 24 cans per case. He expects the expansion to add capacity of up to an additional 15 million cases per year.
“By adding this line in Fruitland, we’re gonna be able to support any one of … three of our other five production plants in our geographical area,” Sheppard noted. “We can help support their volume needs.”
Fruitland Mayor Brian Howell says the city is excited for the expansion to be happening.
“It means the addition of jobs to the Fruitland economy,” Howell said via email.
According to Sheppard, an estimated 20 to 25 new jobs are expected to be created by the expansion.
“I’m happy to hire as many new people as we can,” he said.
Howell pointed out how the facility’s expansion factors into the city’s master plan; Seventh Street is planned to connect to Highway 95, he said.
“This expansion allows us to get a head start on that. Funding for the expansion comes from a number of sources. We have received a grant from the government that will cover a large part of the cost. Swire has contributed to part of the cost and the City will fund part of the construction.”
Howell also notes that Swire helped the city get said grant, and that the planned street expansions will help re-route carrier traffic out of residential areas they currently use.
“Currently those trucks use Fourth Street to get to Highway 95. Fourth [is] partially a residential street; The new Seventh Street expansion will move that truck traffic off Fourth.”
Rick Watkins, zoning administrator for the city of Fruitland, said the project is approved and under construction. He said no community input was collected, as the project is a permitted use within the zoning designation of ‘Heavy Industrial.’
While cans and plastic bottles are not made at the plant but are instead made offsite, the plant does bottle beverages which are distributed to an area which spans 13 states.
According to Sheppard, the concentrates for Coca-Cola’s beverages come pre-made to the plant.
According to Sheppard in addition to producing the brand’s namesake beverage, the plant produces approximately 600 brands and package sizes, including Dasani water, using Fruitland city water.
Swire Coca-Cola also has facilities in Boise, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Pocatello and Twin Falls.