Terry Harris spent the last four years bouncing between temp agencies and commuting to the South Bay to find work, never able to find a full-time job. Then Nutiva, an organic “superfood” company, arrived in Richmond and started hiring Richmond residents – including Harris, a forklift operator. Now, he said, he can ride his bike to work.
Thursday afternoon Harris walked through the cavernous 105,000-square-foot warehouse, mixing with business owners, residents, politicians — and his new coworkers – at a grand opening party, as he and the Nutiva staff ready the warehouse to start operation.
“We’re getting it all ready for production to come in,” Harris said. “I’m very happy to be here. I’m part of a family, everyone is so warmhearted.”
Nutiva outgrew its space in Oxnard and in June chose Richmond as its new home.
The billboard went up first, just off 580: “Change your world one coconut at a time.” Now the warehouse is starting to fill in – Thursday a few small rows of boxes and some machinery stood on a patch of floor space as a hint of what’s to come. Operations started Oct. 1 with online orders and the warehouse will fill with products in the next few weeks. Nutiva products are carried by 15,000 retailers in the United States, Canada and the European Union, the company’s website says.
“We should be fully operational by December,” Plant Manager Greg Phillips said. Nutiva has 70 employees and plans to add approximately 30 more by the end of the year. The company held a job fair in August and plans to prioritize local hires.
Nutiva’s products include organic hemp foods, coconut oil and chia seeds. The company, which started in 1999, has sustained a 52 percent growth rate since 2002.
“We’ve doubled our sales in the last 120 days,” John Roulac, Nutiva’s founder and CEO, said Thursday afternoon. Roulac said that proximity to foodie cultures in the East Bay, San Francisco and Marin, plus shipping options through the port of Oakland, made Richmond a prime location.
Nutiva is also investing in Richmond. Nutiva plans to plant 10-30 fruit trees at every public school over the next five years. The plan started on Monday at Washington Elementary. “We’re a values-driven company and one of those values is community,” Roulac said.
Terry Harris left the grand opening to ride home from work on his bicycle. “I think it’s a positive thing,” Harris said. “I think it will change Richmond.”