By Alysha Alibhai
For Northwest Asian Weekly
At a time of economic stagnation, there’s a bright spot in Snohomish County. More than 100 jobs will reportedly be created within the next two years, once construction is completed on a new bottling facility in Everett.
The beverage company is set to open in the middle of next year, and will “initially hire 50 to 60 employees, not including construction workers,” said Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon last month, in his State of the County address.
Evergreen Bottling is a new manufacturing company that will export water-based beverages worldwide, according to Donna Ambrose, economic development program manager of Snohomish County.
Funded by private investors, construction on the roughly $13 to $15 million state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin later this year. Until then, the product will be shipped from a contracted facility in Los Angeles, Ambrose said.
From its start, the facility “is expecting to ship more than 15 million bottles per month from the Port of Everett to Tokyo, Japan,” and has plans for “rapid expansion to 50 million bottles once their contracts with other international markets are finalized,” said Reardon.
“The magnitude of the existing order and opportunity is enormous,” Ambrose said. “The facility eventually plans to export to locations throughout Asia and the Pacific, which will generate even more jobs.”
Nancy Yi, one of the owners of Evergreen Bottling, said the company will also reach out to distributors in China and Korea. Those are the areas where Evergreen Bottling’s distributors have identified marketplaces for bottled beverages, Yi said.
Given the devastating earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, Yi said that she hopes to get the bottled beverages out for distribution sooner, anticipating that the region will have a greater need for it now.
“The facility will be certified organic and will produce healthy, organic products,” Ambrose said.
Beverages will include functional drinks such as mineral water and vitamin water, but the company is also looking at producing fruit juices made from local farm fresh fruits, Ambrose said.
Developing strong relationships with the agriculture industry in the county is something that Reardon has been working on for the past few years. The beauty of this project is that “plans also include the company coordinating with the [Snohomish County] Grower’s Alliance to supply farm fresh fruits and other produce to create a new line of flavored waters and juices,” said Reardon.
The Snohomish County Grower’s Alliance is a nonprofit organization, and its purpose is to develop, support, and preserve the economic vitality of the agricultural industry in the county.
“Farmers will have new opportunities to develop value-added products and ship them across the country,” said Reardon. “This will secure farmers more income and greater financial stability.”
However, the local produce industry isn’t the only one set to benefit from this project, said Yi. “It is my understanding that our new business will create the Port of Everett’s first export opportunity, [since] they don’t [currently] have any U.S. products being shipped out.”
In the midst of a struggling economy, Reardon has been pursuing a new economic strategy to attract more commerce to the county.
“To create opportunities for business and jobs, we must actively create and seek out new opportunities,” Reardon said. “First, we identified the existing infrastructure and natural assets available in the county. We are following this by reaching out to businesses that could best profit from these assets.”
Evergreen Bottling was among these businesses, and Snohomish County was proactive about showing the investors from Evergreen Bottling the opportunities available to them in Everett.
After Yi approached the county and began discussions about the project, “the county proceeded to help collect information and distribute it to the other owners,” said Ambrose.
Later, they were taken on a tour of the resources and facilities and finally made the decision to locate the facility in Snohomish County.
The investors saw the location as ideal based on a number of factors, said Ambrose.
“Everett has enormous reserves of water, [which is] of high quality and easily accessible,” said Ambrose. “Utility and land costs are also low, making Snohomish County one of the best values for businesses to locate right now.”
“Transportation logistics” in particular make Snohomish County a “very convenient and less expensive [place] to manufacture” our product, said Yi.
Because of these advantages, “businesses [have the] potential for a higher profit margin” in Snohomish County, Ambrose said.
Aside from providing businesses like Evergreen Bottling a platform for investment, the county also looks for opportunities that will be beneficial to the area in the future.
“One of the biggest benefits of this company is [its] direct ties to major distribution companies in Asia,” said Reardon. “It will help open the doors to greater investment into Snohomish County by Asian businesses for specialty products and value-added food exports.
“During these harsh economic times, we cannot depend on others to create our opportunities,” he added. ♦
Alysha Alibhai is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.
She can be reached at email@example.com.