Dole purchases land near Springfield plant

Community Improvement Corp. of Springfield and Clark County board members approved Thursday selling the property at 693 Titus Road to Bud Antle Inc., which operates as a subsidiary of the Clark County food packaging plant.

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The current 40-acre facility located at 600 Benjamin Drive in the Prime Ohio Corporate Park is valued at more than $8.8 million, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.

The plant doesn’t have much room for growth with its current configuration, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the CIC.

“If they ever need to expand or want to grow, they’re kind of landlocked,” Hobbs said. “This was really a play for them to control their own destiny.”

Dole has more than 700 employees at its processing plant in Springfield, which was built in 1998 and packages salad found in grocery stores across the country. The plant serves the entire Northeast market.

In 2014, a $9 million expansion was announced, including an additional 138 jobs. That expansion has since been completed. It allowed the company to add three new packaging lines and one processing line to produce packaged vegetables, including spinach, spring mix and baby lettuce.

In early January, county and city leaders approved a request to rezone the land next to the Dole plant, the property it has since purchased.

A few weeks later, the company recalled products contaminated with listeria linked to salads produced at the Springfield facility. The outbreak affected 19 people in the U.S. and 14 people in Canada, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That included one man in Michigan who died.

Three people died in Canada, although it hasn’t been determined if listeria contributed to the cause of those deaths, according to information from the Canadian Public Health Agency.

The plant was closed for nearly three months before limited production resumed in late April.

Listeria is a food-borne bacteria typically found in raw vegetables and meats, as well as some soft cheeses. About 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths due to listeriosis occur annually in the U.S., according to information from the CDC.

The recent plant shutdown doesn’t change Dole’s commitment to the Springfield community, Hobbs said.

“We’re certainly excited because this will allow them to be growth-oriented in the future,” he said.

Dole has invested millions of dollars in the community and has worked through recent problems, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.

The land purchase is a real win for everyone, he said.

“The community is very fortunate to have a company like that operating out of here,” Detrick said.

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