News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

NORPAC building sold to developer

Stayton could be gaining hundreds of new working-class jobs after the old NORPAC facility was sold to an industrial developer with plans to upgrade the building and lease it out to tenants.

On Feb. 7, Industrial Realty Group (IRG) announced it had acquired the 600,000 square-foot facility at 930 W Washington St.

IRG President Stuart Lichter said in a news release their goal was to find “dynamic companies which will provide significant job opportunities.”

“This facility once housed Stayton’s major employer for many years,” said Lichter. “We want to bring economic and job opportunities to the community once again.”

NORPAC (North Pacific Canners & Packers) closed its Stayton facility in 2019 amid bankruptcy proceedings, laying off 485 fulltime and seasonal employees. The company was founded at the site in 1924 as Stayton Canning Company, a cooperative of local berry farmers.

At its peak, NORPAC owned packing facilities, warehouses and farmland throughout the Northwest and served national clients like KFC, Applebee’s, Taco Bell, Kroger and Costco. But it struggled amid the rise in popularity of organic produce, increasing costs of personnel and a drop in young people willing to work in agriculture, according to a 2017 interview with former NORPAC CEO George Smith in Oregon Business.

In 2019 NORPAC filed chapter 11 bankruptcy with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Most of its assets were sold to Oregon Potato Company, which then formed PNW Vegco to operate the old NORPAC facilities. 

The Stayton plant did not reopen. Portions of the facility are currently used by Oregon Potato Company and the U.S. Department of Forestry, and IRG said they plan to retain these tenants.

Dan Fleishman, planning and development director for Stayton, said the community has struggled with the loss of so many jobs. 

Many of NORPAC’s full-time employees had been with the company for decades, while its hundreds of seasonal employees were often high schoolers from throughout the region picking up summer work.

Fleishman said he is optimistic IRG will help bring some of those opportunities back.

“It has been hard to have the loss of those jobs in the community,” said Fleishman. “With IRG’s purchase of the property and their plans to lease it out, we look forward to seeing the return of business activity and jobs for Stayton residents.”

Fleishman said the city was not directly involved in the sale and learned of the acquisition after being contacted by IRG representatives. He said Stayton does plan to take an active role in helping find new tenants, including promoting the site through partner agencies.

“We will make sure that our economic development partners at the state and regional level know about the property,” he said.

IRG said the facility is “well-positioned” within the Willamette Valley for a variety of industrial and agricultural uses, from manufacturing to food processing. 

The company said it is undertaking phased facility improvements to “upgrade and revitalize the property” and will rebrand the building as Santiam Industrial Center.

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