Coupled with speeches and ceremony, local and state community members were invited to tour the facility, witness the inaugural off-loading to the plant and enjoy lunch featuring their product via Mo’s Food Truck.
A giant of industry, a Warrenton staple and an exceptional employer, Pacific Seafood is proud to
return to their home dock with new steel infrastructure underfoot. The company will be resuming production at the site as soon as possible, once remaining equipment is installed and employees journey from their temporary site in Astoria. Just as they will cross the Columbia, the founder too, crossed a great body of water to realize his ambitions many years ago.
From Croatia to Ellis Island, then on to Portland, the Dulcich family have journeyed from afar to feed and support our community. After starting two different companies in the seafood industry, Frank M. Dulcich and his son Dominic tried again. “The third time’s the charm,” Frank, the founder’s grandson and namesake explained. “With the right people the right vision and execution,” he claimed, business can bloom. What set the new business apart from the others was a step back. Previously, Frank M. had focused on distribution, relying on others to not only supply, but also process his product. Taking the leap into processing is where success took hold for the Dulcich family. “From moat to throat,” Frank quipped at Tuesday’s grand re-opening. “From farm to fork.” By taking on the processing step in addition to distribution, Frank M and Dominic weren’t dependent on others for their productivity. By knowing where their product came from, success was a foregone conclusion.
Today, Pacific Seafood takes this concept a step further. In addition to sustainability, traceability is an important pillar in the company. As a quality assurance process, this practice allows the company to track where each fillet swam. Situated on the Skipanon River, at the mouth of the Columbia, Warrenton is an important pinpoint on this map.
Fishermen have been bringing their catch to Pacific Seafood in Warrenton since 1983. When it was destroyed in 2003 by a fire, that didn’t change. Pacific Seafood swiftly recovered. As Dan Occhipinti, general counsel for Pacific Seafood described, “We stood with burned remnants smoldering behind us and promised, ‘We will rebuild.’” In the meantime, the employees and management were relocated to an airplane hanger at Tongue Point Job Corps Center where production got back on schedule within the week. Then, a team of leaders began the long journey toward fulfilling the promise to rebuild. State Senator Betsy Johnson, State Representative Deborah Boone, Mayor Henry Balensifer, former Mayor Mark Kujala and countless others joined forces with Pacific Seafood to make it happen. “Rebuilding in the same spot presented obstacles,” Dan Occhipinti explained. But, from permits to insurance, the hurdles were surmounted, and finally, as Senator Johnson said, gesturing to the more than 78,000 square foot new facility, “We now have this.”
The facility is not only bigger, it will also produce more, whilst maintaining sustainability. In the past, production recovery hovered around 19%. Meaning, for every 100 pounds of shrimp caught, nineteen pounds of meat were shipped to the consumer. Now, Pacific Seafood is at 36% recovery and working to improve. “We’re asking, ‘How do we extract the maximum amount of protein to lessen the impact on the environment?’” CEO, Frank Dulcich explained. The plant will also be using new technology to clean wastewater from production, in addition to conserving water. “We want to build a better Oregon together,” Frank said, and taking care of our natural resources is part of that process.
A better Oregon includes the company’s expert employees who work tirelessly to maintain high standards at the plant. Warrenton’s team will include approximately 140 full-time employees, with another 100 added seasonally to meet demand. Sixty-two team members were recognized at the grand opening for their commitment and dedication during the rebuild. Working through the move, over five years of waiting, they stayed loyal. Cheered by local and state level supporters, the employees were presented with a ‘Challenge Coin’ by Dulcich, as given in the military for significant accomplishments.
The Pacific Seafood family faced hardship with solidarity and have come out stronger on the other side, stronger for Warrenton. As Mayor Henry Balensifer listed Warrenton’s top economic contributors, Pacific Seafood fell between forestry and retail, a critical support who, “Kept their word and commitment,” he explained.
With production of hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish each day, the Warrenton employees will be busy off- loading, filleting, packaging, freezing and shipping product ready for the consumer. Pacific Seafood has taken great strides in sustainability and conservation, but they hope to go further. According to Dulcich, in coming years, they hope to continue improvements in recovery, getting more of the “healthiest protein on the plant” into the mouths of consumers. And they hope to make it more imperishable, improving the shelf life of their products. As the company moves forward, Warrenton is proud to partner with them, as Mayor Balensifer explained of past and upcoming challenges, “With anything, we make it through together.”