Seattle company buys Seward plant

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Seattle-based company has purchased a processing plant in Seward from Wards Cove Packing Co., which is exiting the processing business.

Smoki Foods Inc. will hit the ground running as the Resurrection Bay Seafoods plant gears up for the halibut season that opens Saturday, said Rodger May, co-owner of the company with his wife, Lisa May.

''We're hoping to get out 250,000 to 300,000 pounds in the first four days,'' May said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Management of the Seward plant, which employs about 35, won't change, he said.

In the future, the company is hoping to expand the Seward operation beyond processing halibut and black cod to utilize pinks and for other value-added operations, May said. He figures the plant's location just two hours by road from Anchorage and its airport is a big plus.

Smoki Foods started in 1994 and the main plant is right around the corner from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, May said. The company also operates a plant at Port Simpson, British Columbia, just north of Prince Rupert. Each plant employs about 100 workers, May said.

Smoki Foods processes 30 to 35 million pounds of fish a year, with about 15 million pounds coming from Alaska, according to May.

He estimates the company sells 60 to 70 percent of its product fresh.

''We've got a very stable customer base,'' May said, ''largely composed of national retailers.'' He said the company is also adding one of the largest cold storage facilities in Seattle to its operation.

In addition to the U.S. market, Smoki Foods exports to Canada, Asian and Europe, said Patrick Ryland, logistics and export manager for the company. The company buys some farmed fish from Chile, as well as Alaskan, West Coast and Canadian salmon, halibut and black cod, he said.

Wards Cove shocked the industry in December when it announced it was getting out of the salmon business after several years of losses.

Wards Cove is negotiating with a number of potential buyers for its Alaska salmon plants, company chairman Alec W. Brindle said in a statement.

''I anticipate being able to announce more good news for Alaska fishers, communities and process workers in the very near future,'' Brindle said.

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