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Graceland breaks ground on expansion expected to create 45 new jobs.

Graceland Fruit, Inc. broke ground September 30 on a 30,000 square foot expansion of its Forrester Road dried fruit processing facility that will create an estimated 45 new jobs, Don Nugent, President and CEO of Graceland, announced.

The $13 million expansion is expected to begin operating and contributing to the economic prosperity of Benzie County under Michigan's Renaissance Zone program by September 2004 and will increase production capacity for Graceland's infused dried fruit ingredients and create the capability to produce new products.

"Graceland's added production capacity will create new market opportunities for over 7,000 acres of Michigan agricultural production," Nugent said. "This will create additional demand for 3,300 acres of sugar beets, 2,300 acres of cherries and 1,400 acres of blueberries as well as other fruits and vegetables.

"Graceland's research and development program continues to find new value added uses and applications for Michigan's agricultural products, and this new processing and manufacturing capacity will help to meet the demand of both domestic and international markets."

Lydia Murray of the, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Agriculture Commissioner Jim Maitland participated in the groundbreaking as well as a number of local dignitaries. Former Governor Connie Binsfeld attended the ceremony.

Graceland was resented by over 30 employees, senior officers and directors including Chairman of the Board John Bull, Chief Operating Officer Steve Nugent, and Chief Financial Officer Troy Terwilliger.

Elzinga & Volkers, Inc., of Holland MI, is providing the design and build services for construction of the first phase of the expansion project and will supervise the design, manufacturing and installation of custom machinery and production facilities as part of phase 2. Both phases are expected to be completed and operating by September 1, 2004 according to Thorn Poel, vice president of Elzinga & Volkers.

Graceland Fruit was founded in 1973 and began the development of dried cherries two years later. The company has expanded its product lines to infused cranberries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, tropical fruits and more, making it the largest producer of infused dried fruit in the world.

The company earned the prestigious Edward R. Madigan U.S. Agricultural Export Excellence Award in 2002 and Don Nugent has been named Master Entrepreneur Of The Year by the West Michigan office of Ernst & Young. He is now competing for the National Entrepreneur Of The Year honors to be named in Palm Springs, CA in November.

In 1999, the company was honored as the National Ag Marketer of the Year and Michigan Manufacturer of the Year being named Michigan's Exporter of the Year in 1997.
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Comment:Graceland breaks ground on expansion expected to create 45 new jobs.
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:427
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