State, nonprofits put money to reopening closed Ontario onion factory

By: Molly Harbarger - Jul 30, 2015
Source: The Oregonian

A closed Ontario food processing facility is getting new life as part of Idaho-based Fry Foods' expansion.

The Select Onion Company, which produced bagged, whole peeled, frozen diced onions and onion rings, was built in 2000 and then closed in 2012. The company, which grew onions on 9,000 acres next to the plant, went bankrupt and hundreds of jobs were lost.

Now, Fry Foods is planning to hire about 330 people from the Ontario area, according to a statement. At least 60 percent of those jobs are supposed to go to low-income residents. The company will also be renovating the factory, and expects to hire 100 construction-related jobs.

The nonprofit National Community Investment Fund, banks Wells Fargo and Capitol One, Portland-based nonprofit Ecotrust and Enhanced Community Development together put $20 million into the effort. Craft3, the Pacific Northwest's community development loan institution, loaned Fry Foods $10 million.

The Oregon Strategic Reserve Fund chipped in a $550,000 loan and Business Oregon, the state business and development agency, expanded its "enterprise zone" to include the facility. The enterprise zone designation comes with property tax exemptions.

The state got behind the project, because Ontario has a poverty rate of 27 percent and high unemployment compared to the rest of Oregon.