IMMOKALEE, Fla. — A longtime vegetable and watermelon shipper is relocating to larger operations.

Southern Corporate Packers Inc. has acquired and moved into a building formerly run by Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. L&M has relocated its operations to the building formerly owned by the owners of Pacific Collier Fresh Co., which ceased operations in May.

In late September, Southern Corporate closed on the operation and was moving equipment into the packinghouse inside Immokalee’s Tradeport Technology industrial park on the city’s southeast side near its airport.

The move to the 40,000-square-foot operation comes as the grower-shipper increases its acreage by 50%, said Brian Arrigo, president.

Arrigo declined to state specifics, but said acreage increases come across all of its commodities, including bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and watermelon. Southern Corporate markets a mixture of its own and other growers’ vegetable and watermelon acreage.

“With the increased acreage, we will be able to service a consistent, year-round supply to our customers,” Arrigo said.

Southern Corporate moves out of a 60-year-old building, which previously housed other produce grower-shippers and brokers.

Arrigo said Southern Corporate plans to expand its watermelon packing by relocating those operations from the Immokalee State Farmers Market to the new site. At that 7-acre site, Arrigo said he plans to construct a 60,000-square-foot watermelon packing shed. Expected to be finished in 2012, the addition should place all vegetables and watermelon under one roof.  

The new operation has received food safety certification, and Arrigo said the operation plans to achieve GlobalGAP certification by 2012.

While it grows and sells southern vegetables primarily from Florida from November to May, Southern Corporate grows and markets watermelon throughout the year throughout the East Coast, Honduras, Mexico and Canada.

Arrigo also owns a distribution facility, Chill Fresh Produce, in Kitchener, Ontario, not far from the family produce wholesale business he grew up in, FG Lister & Co. Ltd., Toronto, where he worked until other opportunities brought him to south Florida during the late 1980s when he opened Southern Corporate. Since that 1989 opening, which originally began as a buying broker, Arrigo has expanded his acreage and grower relationships.

In addition to the southern vegetables, Southern Corporate also markets roma, grape and cherry tomatoes and imports Honduran cucumbers and pepper and personal-sized watermelon during the winter.