BY ANGELINA MARTIN


Photo contributed
Construction crews work on the Foster Farms expansion in Livingston on Feb. 6.

One of the largest employers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley is in expansion mode after announcing a multi-million-dollar capital investment project last week.

Construction is already underway at the Foster Farms poultry processing facility in Livingston, where the plant’s product lines will be expanded and upgraded. The Livingston facility alone employs over 2,000 people in Merced County, while the company’s other plants in Turlock, Fresno, Porterville, the South and the Pacific Northwest employ an additional 10,000.

The Livingston expansion, estimated to be completed by September, will contribute additional jobs to that number, a statement released by Merced County said.

“Foster Farms is expanding its Livingston operation to allow for future growth and diversification of our customer mix on the West Coast,” Foster Farms President and CEO Laura Flanagan said.

Foster Farms first opened a plant in Livingston in 1959, 20 years after its founders Max and Verda Foster began raising turkeys and eventually chicks in Waterford. The Foster Farms headquarters moved to Livingston in 1960 and remain there to this day.

“Since then, we have been very pleased with the quality of the workforce, the access the location provides us to California markets, and the partnership of state and local officials in helping us to succeed in California,” Flanagan said.

The expansion has been made possible by a $6.5 million economic incentive package, developed by state and local government leaders working in concert with Foster Farms executive staff.

The package includes resources from California Competes, the California Energy Commission Food Production Investment Program, the Merced County Expanded Subsidized Employment Program, the Merced County On-the-Job Training Program, as well as incentives from the City of Livingston.

“This is a perfect example of government working with local business to help keep jobs in the Valley and grow our economic base,” Merced County Board of Supervisors Chairman Lloyd Pareira said. “Not only do we tell people that we’re business friendly—we show it.”

Prior to the Livingston project, Foster Farms’ most recent expansion came in 2015, when the poultry company renovated an unused chicken hatchery to expand their existing Turlock facility by 5,400 square feet. The expansion on South Walnut Road included site improvements like electrical upgrade and air handling units, as well as the installation of hatching equipment for turkeys, rather than chicken.

The expansion allowed Foster Farms to increase its hatch and provide better quality poultry, or baby turkeys, while also adding 25 jobs to the local economy. It became operational in May 2016.