Factory springs from seeds

By Robert Rodriquez, The Fresno Bee, October 2, 2003

Stewart Resnick speaks with unidentified worker about the construction of his Del Rey headquarters just outside Fresno, CA.
Paramount Farming, one of California's largest agricultural companies, will soon begin operating a first-of-its-kind pomegranate juicing plant.

The Del Rey Juice Co., a division of Paramount, is just days away from crushing thousands of tons of pomegranates into juice. The company has invested $4 million in the new plant furnished with specialized juicing equipment the company developed. The 28,000 square-foot plant is believed to be the largest of its type and will employ 10 to 20 seasonal workers. "We didn't know who to copy, otherwise, we would have," said Stewart Resnick, owner of Paramount. "There was no bench mark." Resnick said he plans to turn Del Rey, a one time raisin packing center, into the pomegranate-processing capital of California, if not the world. "This is the first quality pomegranate juice ever produced," he said.

Resnick, along with his wife, Lynda, entered the pomegranate business in a big way several years ago, planting 6,000 acres along the western edge of Kern and Kings counties. Along with the growing fruit for the grocery stores, the Resnicks created a line of pomegranate juice drinks that are marketed through a company called Pom Wonderful.

Mike Dorion, Paramount's operations manager, said the new juicing plant is expected to begin running in mid-October and operate for two to three months. "We are waiting for Mother Nature to get the fruit ready," Dorion said. "Once that happens, we are ready to go." The plant has the capacity to process 20,000 to 30,000 tons of fruit a season. Once the juice is extracted it is made into a concentrate and shipped to packers for bottling and distribution, Dorion said. Local and county officials praised the new plant during a luncheon Wednesday.

Dave Spaur, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, said this is the type of company the region needs. The county is the state's leading agricultural county producing $3.4 billion in farm products, but many crops grown here are processed elsewhere. "If you wanted to recruit the top ag companies, this is the top of the list," Spaur said.

Paramount Farming of Bakersfield is one of the state's largest agriculture companies growing oranges, pistachios and almonds.

Long time Del Rey residents were excited to see the new plant open. Over the last 10 years, several fruit packing companies have closed, causing the loss of hundreds of jobs. "This company has brought us back some hope," said Liza Luiz, manager for the Del Rey Community Service District. "So many companies have left and now we are seeing new life again."