Bread plant training second shift

CENTRALIA - A new manufacturing facility that will supply bread to Subway Restaurants has opened in Lewis County. The $25 million plant is expected to employ about 80 people in the coming months, officials close to the operation said Wednesday.

The new jobs come at a good time. Lewis County’s jobless rate was 13.9 percent, and Thurston County’s was 7.4 percent in November, according to state Employment Security Department data released last month. Lewis County’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state, the data show.

The 150,000-square-foot plant in Centralia, operated by Millard Refrigerated Services, opened in August and is expected to gradually work up to three shifts a day, five days a week, said Matt Dibble, general manager of the plant. It currently operates with one shift of workers and a second shift of workers is undergoing training, he said.

By April, it is expected to employ 80 people, most of whom will be hourly workers, although seven to 10 positions are salaried.

Among those who applied for a job in August was Jared Kasinger, 22, of Chehalis.

Kasinger, who now works as a utility operator for the plant, said he spent seven months looking for work before he finally was hired at the plant at an hourly wage of $13.30. “I applied all the way up to Seattle and down to Vancouver,” he said about his job search. “I’m very happy to have this job.”

Kasinger used to work at a federal prison near the California/Nevada border. After a transfer to another federal prison fell through, he decided to make a career change and moved to Chehalis to be closer to family in Longview. “I’m glad that didn’t work out because this is much safer,” he said.

The plant at 205 Robert Thompson Road also can expand to 292,000 square feet.

The bread manufactured at the facility will serve the Seattle-Tacoma restaurant group and its more than 360 stores throughout the region, eventually growing to serve stores in the Northwest, said Jeanne Ryan, director of operations for Subway Development of Southwest Washington.

Ryan said before the Centralia plant opened, the bread for its franchise operators in the area used to come from Arizona, followed by a California location. Because the new facility is closer to the Seattle-Tacoma area, it should lower shipping costs for franchise operators, she said.

Dibble said the plant received several hundred applications for the first jobs that opened up on the processing side of the plant in August. The refrigerated warehouse side of the plant opened in October.

Dibble added that most of the positions start at around $13 an hour.

“We are going to be a good manufacturer to meet (Subway’s) criteria and demand,” he said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403