Nestlé Purina plant in growth mode

PHOTO/SUBMITTED Nestlé Purina’s pet food factory in South Whitehall Township is undergoing an expansion that will create 35 jobs and boost production volume.

Nestlé Purina celebrates 60 years of manufacturing operations at its South Whitehall Township location this year. ALPO, the company’s predecessor, broke ground in 1958 at the current Pope Road location.

Today Nestlé is undertaking an expansion project that includes the addition of a 53,000-square-foot warehouse, two new tractor-trailer parking areas and 80 more spaces in its employee parking lot.

The project – begun in 2017 and expected to be complete by the end of 2019 – also calls for adding a new production and packaging line and installing new technology.

The company expects to create 35 jobs and boost production by 30 percent.

“Nestlé Purina is proud to operate in Allentown and this recent expansion reflects a significant investment that supports local jobs,” said Winston Silva, factory manager for the facility.

The company currently employs 480 at its South Whitehall location, making high-quality pet food including ALPO, Friskies and Pro Plan.

The company’s expansion, meanwhile, has provided a catalyst for additional growth in the Lehigh Valley as suppliers and other vendors are showing interest in following Nestlé’s investments.

“It’s one of the major contributors to our efforts to recruit new investment in that industry sector,” said Matthew Tuerk, vice president of economic development and marketing for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. “Having them here is great for us for recruiting additional operations. The companies that are part of Nestle’s supply chain also are industries interested in being in the market.”

For example, Silgan Containers recently invested in a major manufacturing facility closer to the South Whitehall Nestlé plant.

“They are establishing a can manufacturing facility there to supply cans to that Nestlé facility,” he said. “That’s a $15 million investment that’s projected to create 30 jobs over the next three years.”

The LVEDC is working to generate additional growth in the area.

“Whenever we have those kinds of good global brands, it helps us with our jobs, which is recruiting business investment in the Lehigh Valley,” Tuerk said. “It smoothes the conversation a little bit. They know that Nestle has made a decision to invest in the Lehigh Valley and they obviously value it if they are continuing to invest here.”

The investment extends beyond the traditional industry circles and into other sectors of the economy, including vendor and contractor relationships.

ALPO founded the factory in 1936 to make pet food and moved operations to their current site in 1958. Nestlé acquired ALPO in 1985 and has carried out various expansions over the years.

“We have many employees who have lived and worked here their entire careers and come from multi-generation Purina families,” Silva said.

Nestlé Purina partners with local schools, including Lehigh County Technical Institute and Northampton Community College to provide technical training for its existing and future workforce.

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