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eNews from Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Seed Processing Facility Opens in Pasco, Washington

Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, WA) -- PASCO -- October 29, 2009 -- Mayor Joyce Olson remembers when the city's northside processing center was called a "field of dreams."

It wasn't a complimentary description of the empty land there.

As Olson surveyed it Wednesday during opening ceremonies for Syngenta's new $42 million seed processing facility, she was reminded of how that has changed.

"I couldn't help but think back to the 1990s when the whole concept of a Pasco processing center began to emerge," she said. "It's intrinsically rewarding to see how it's all evolved."

Syngenta's seed processing plant, which sits on 40 acres, is the newest addition to the center, which began as a joint venture between the city and the Port of Pasco in the late '80s to attract agriculture processors.

"The city was saying, 'We need to target, we need to focus, we need to find a way to attract processors to Pasco,' " said Jim Toomey, the port's executive director.

The Pasco Processing Center began to take shape in 1994 when J.R. Simplot purchased and developed the first plot of land. Fifteen years later, Syngenta, which processes seeds grown around the world, is operating in Pasco.

Construction began in June 2008, shortlyafter Syngenta bought land from the port, and finished this month. The facility provides 30 full-time jobs and about 100 seasonal positions during sweet corn harvest.

The Pasco facility is one of two Syngenta vegetable seed processing plants in the U.S. and will process sweet corn, watermelon, squash, melon, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and spinach. Syngenta controls about 40 percent of the worldwide market share for sweet corn seed.

The company's other U.S. seed processing plant, in Othello, focuses on peas, snap peas and green beans. Dan Berdett, president of Syngenta's North American vegetable division, said the relationship with area farmers and the region's agricultural reputation were two of the driving forces behind the company's decision to build in Pasco. "A lot of it was about the growing environment."

Pasco was chosen from 47 sites worldwide.

The plant will receive seed from area farmers and from around the globe. Sweet corn, one of the plant's focal points, will come from the Mid-Columbia during its growing season and South America during this area's off-season.

A world map set up inside one of the cavernous warehouses Wednesday had pins stuck in each city or region that produces seeds for Syngenta. The company receives tomatoes from Morocco, melons from Thailand and squash and cucumbers from China, to name a few. It has processing plants in India and Holland as well.

Pasco officials are excited to see a multinational company build and operate in the city during tough economic times. Toomey said attracting companies with the size and stability of Syngenta is "incredibly important."

"You cannot underestimate it," he said.

Gary Crutchfield, Pasco city manager since 1984, remembers when the city, port and Franklin PUD were working to establish the Pasco Processing Center. He talked about the initial struggles, the eventual growth and the recent addition of Syngenta.

"It's been great to see it converted from sagebrush to industrial facilities," he said. "I call it a home run; probably a grand slam."

Author: By Drew Foster, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash., 509-585-7207;

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Copyright (c) 2009, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

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