In 2006, when Copper River Seafoods first arrived in Kenai to purchase fish, an important promise was made to the fishermen: "We're staying." Six years later, Scott Blake - President, CEO and Alaskan fisherman - reports, "We've been growing our business in the region and today the company fulfills the promise to fishermen with yet another investment - the Kenai Copper River Seafoods Facility." On June 22, Copper River Seafoods hosted a presentation, tour and reception for key partners at its Grand Opening of a Kenai Seafood Manufacturing Facility, located at the mouth of the Kenai River in Cook Inlet along with the 1st Anniversary of their All Alaska Workforce Initiative. Over the past year Copper River Seafoods has created a workforce initiative by utilizing the US Certified Apprenticeship Model. Thanks to partnerships with the State and Federal Departments of Labor, the apprentices have been given the skills and managerial training to develop a talented labor force designed for growth.
Commissioner Dianne Blumer of the Alaska Department of Labor was in Kenai for the celebration and told the Dispatch in an interview, "The Department of Labor has an apprenticeship program that is recognized nationally and Copper River Seafoods teamed up with our department to come with a curriculum that would develop and train applicants for many of the positions in the trade that can be used for Copper River Seafoods or anywhere else in the industry because they're gaining skills that are transferable and beneficial to Alaska's economy, training Alaskans for Alaskan jobs is our primary goal," said Blumer.
Blake added, "We feel it's an absolute necessity for us to be a professional food manufacturer that processes seafood in Alaska that we have trained seafood professionals that can compete worldwide so we saw the workforce development initiative as a perfect opportunity to accomplish that. This dedication and celebration are at the very heart of Copper River Seafoods. We have maintained unwavering commitment to creating an Alaskan company - started by fishermen, operated by Alaskans, in Alaska. It is a proud day that we can see one more step toward Alaskan companies being competitive with our rich Alaska resource," said Blake, also the Founder and President of Copper River Seafoods.
Phase 1 of the newly remodeled facility will have the capacity to do primary manufacturing of 10 million pounds of seafood annually. The purpose of the plant is to provide consistent quality and supply of high value processed seafood by expanding Copper River Seafoods' manufacturing capabilities. The new plant will receive fish from Cook Inlet, Seward, Prince William Sound, as well as coastal communities of Western Alaska.
The Copper River Seafoods Kenai facility originated as a cannery in 1912, and later became Dragnet Fisheries. The remodeled plant boasts new processing and refrigeration equipment, an all-Alaskan staff, and a strong partnership with area fishermen. Copper River Seafoods is a primary and secondary wild Alaska, premium seafood manufacturer, established in 1996 by 4 Cordova area fishermen. Currently, the company employs 435 (135 year-round and 300 seasonal) to process and market all species of wild Alaska seafood to national retail and food service accounts. It is headquartered in Anchorage supporting primary processing in Cordova, Togiak, Unalaska, Kenai and a finished food processing facility in Anchorage. At the dedication and anniversary celebration Scott Blake presented Linda Swarner, executive director of the Peninsula Food Bank with a check for $1,000.