DINUBA, Calif. — Fresh Select LLC was one of nearly 30 firms and the only produce company that will share in about $29 million of tax credits designed to enhance job creation and hiring.
The fresh fruit packer learned June 19 that the California Competes Tax Credit Committee had approved its request for a $500,000 tax credit, which will be prorated through 2018 providing the company meets specific criteria, said Laura Vannorsdall, Fresh Select controller.
Vannorsdall admitted applying for the credit was a learning experience, but she said everybody in the various agencies were helpful. And she’d encourage other produce firms to seek out similar funds.
“There’s always money on the table that people aren’t aware of that you can take advantage of,” Vannorsdall said.
Although the packer doesn’t count on tax credits when budgeting, she said the award will help speed capital improvements
“It does help with some of our infrastructure improvements that we’re making,” Vannorsdall said.
Among those are installing energy-saving LED lighting and possibly solar power generation.
Nearly 400 companies initially applied for a total of $500 million in tax credits, according to the California Department of Business and Economic Development.
Vannorsdall said she was surprised that Fresh Select was classified as a large business when the list of finalists came out. Other large applicants included Amazon, Hyundai and Samsung.
This is not the first time that the Dinuba packer has received a state tax credit to aid job development, either, she said.
The firm was part of an enterprise zone that provided tax credits to companies that hired back the same employees year after year. Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated that program and replaced it with the Governor’s Economic Development Initiative, of which the California Competes tax credit is part.
With 110,000 square feet of space, Fresh Select custom packs stone fruit, citrus including easy-peel varieties, pomegranates and other commodities year-round. Unlike some packers that focus only on stone fruit or only on citrus, she said the firm can run both simultaneously.
“It allows the packing crew to continue to work throughout the season,” she said.
At the peak of the stone fruit and pomegranate season in late summer, Fresh Select will have 250 workers for a six-week period.
The company has installed a new Maf Sizer with Global Scan for citrus frost separation, defect sorting and color sorting as well as soft goose-neck bin fillers. The sizer/scanner is 97% accurate for softness detection, she said.
“For frost separation this past season, we did it for a dozen companies,” Vannorsdall said.
In addition, Fresh Select has cold storage and refrigerated loading docks to maintain the cold chain. To gain the most from every square foot, Vannorsdall said de-greening rooms not in use can be used for cold storage or pre-cooling and vice versa.