Data loading...

USA Albacore Pouch Processor Is Expanding

Mike Babcock has a business opportunity that requires a bigger facility. The city of Coos Bay has an area of town it would like to see grow. The community will decide whether it’s a match made in tuna heaven.

The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency will take public comment on the proposed use of the Hollering Place for Babcock’s proposed “tuna factory/processing plant, which includes a process viewing area, retail section, and possibly a café,” at its meeting July 2.

Plans to build the facility would require amending the city’s Zoning and Comprehensive Plan, and that means the public will need to have its say.

Babcock created Oregon Seafoods, LLC, in 2011 with a goal of providing a high-quality, nutritious alternative in the processed albacore tuna market. The wild-caught albacore tuna, sold in environmentally friendly pouches, is now being marketed in over 800 grocery stores. He’s also introduced a successful line of soups and sauces.

But problems do come with success. Babcock says he needs more space.

“It’s not a purpose-built facility,” he said Tuesday about his current building, which once hosted a butcher shop on Second Street and Golden Avenue. “We’re looking to scale up, but it has limitations ... so we’re looking for a new home.”

The Hollering Place would be near a deep-water port and has enough land to create the 15,000 square-foot facility, and he says it makes sense to take a closer look.

“I think there is a lot of support,” said Rodger Craddock, Coos Bay’s city manager — which is important, because both say it will need community backing to work.

The biggest obstacle Oregon Seafoods faces is a community-focused master plan created in 2008. Craddock said Babcock’s proposal isn’t necessarily out of step with what the community was looking at back then.

“I think we all realize that visions and master plans, they don’t always come out exact. We have something that’s being presented to us for consideration that might meet the intent,” he said.

The Empire Coalition, a group that helped develop Hollering Place’s current master plan, already has reviewed the proposal and will be ready to comment at the meeting.

Craddock said he understood the group’s reaction to be positive toward the proposed tuna processing plant modeled along the lines of the public-viewing layout of Face Rock Creamery in Bandon.

Timing may be difficult, however, even if the public wants the expansion. Babcock is pressed for space and needs to find a new home within the year. Meanwhile, the city needs about three to four months to get the answers they need.

“There is still a lot of details to work out about how we move forward; who’s going to build the building? How is it going to be financed?” Craddock said. “So, we’re a long ways down the road yet.”