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Article updated: 2/22/2013 11:58 AM

Fresh Express to be Streamwood's largest employer

A new Chiquita Brands/Fresh Express plant is about to open on the refurbished former site of Duraco Products in Streamwood.

A new Chiquita Brands/Fresh Express plant is about to open on the refurbished former site of Duraco Products in Streamwood.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

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Fresh Express, a division of Chiquita Brands, is about to become Streamwood's single largest employer when its new plant begins operations on the former Duraco Products site.

More than 700 employees will work at the facility at 1109 E. Lake St., which consolidates the functions of four separate sites in Franklin Park. Fresh Express makes packaged, ready-to-eat salad products.

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"It's taking a facility that has been vacant for more than two years," Streamwood Village Manager Gary O'Rourke said.

Yet, village officials view getting the building reoccupied within such a time frame as a great success for Streamwood's economic development. Filling large vacant buildings can be one of the biggest challenges municipalities face.

Both Village President Billie Roth and her current election challenger, Trustee James Cecille, are in complete agreement about this positive development for Streamwood.

Village officials hope the influx of workers will support existing businesses along the Lake Street corridor and perhaps draw more.

And the jobs which have been promoted in recent months are probably of a type that local residents who've been unemployed would be qualified for, O'Rourke said. This further helps the local economy by helping previously struggling people stay in their homes.

The community room of the village's police station hosted several job fairs for Fresh Express.

The adaptation of the industrial site to one that will be handling food products required an extensive overhaul, part of which the village was involved in.

"They have a significant need for water supply and sewer capacity," O'Rourke said of the new plant.

Because of the economic development the project is bringing, however, the village received a state grant of $500,000 that helped pay for a new water main to serve not only this facility but the rest of the industrial sites on that side of the village.

A large part of the plant will be insulated and refrigerated to keep food fresh, maintaining a temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit.

The company is in the process of preparing its first production line at the new plant, but the full transition from the Franklin Park sites is expected to take a few months, O'Rourke said.

Chiquita Brands officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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