Room to grow in Frederickson

Frederickson may be losing its incorporation battle to become the first new city in Pierce County since 1996, but it’s a winner in terms of offering plenty of land and room to grow business.

Located about 13 miles southeast of Tacoma, Frederickson is the largest single industrial development site in the Puget Sound region that is zoned for heavy manufacturing and has industrial capacity utilities and infrastructure in place. The area is served by Tacoma Rail, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities, with rail lines running through the site.

Several companies currently operate in the Frederickson area, including Medallion Foods, James Hardie Building Products and Tacoma Guitars, businesses which were highlighted during a Wednesday media tour.

Located in a plant that covers more than 77,000 square feet on an 18-acre site with plenty of room for expansion, Medallion Foods manufactures pasta, most of which is exported to Japan.

“We pride ourselves on our facility,” said Plant Manager Marcello Mancini, noting the focus on product quality.

Although the bulk of the company’s business is focused on supplying their product to the Japanese market, domestic growth is going up.

“We focus on the Northwest,” he said. “That’s where our niche is.”

There is plenty of room to expand the plant, Mancini said, stating more lines could be added for a total of six. The plant currently has two pasta manufacturing lines – one for short goods such as elbow macaroni, shells, rigatoni and penne and a long goods line that includes spaghetti, fettuccine and linguine.

Long term expansion plans may include an on-site durum semolina plant, the substance which is milled from wheat and then turned into pasta.

The location near the Port of Tacoma, as well as the rail line were major factors in brining the plant to Frederickson, Mancini said.

Medallion Foods was established in 1996 and manufacturing began in 1998.

“We’re poised to be ready to grow,” Mancini said.

James Hardie Building Products is a leading international building materials company that produces a wide range of fiber cement products used in the interior and exterior of buildings.

The Frederickson location employees 93 people.

“Our difference is our people,” said Plant Manager Harv Shelton. “We reap the benefits of that everyday.

Shelton described Frederickson as a great location for attracting quality people. Prior to deciding to build a plant in Tacoma, the Eastern Washington city of Spokane was considered, as was a location in Oregon, Shelton said.
Ultimately, it was decided the region could best be served by Tacoma, because of the area’s superior transportation, he said.

James Hardie Industries was created in December 2001, after shareholders voted to accept a unanimous recommendation by the board of James Hardie Industries Limited to restructure the company and establish a new parent company incorporated in the Netherlands.

Tacoma Guitars represents another success story for a business in the Frederickson area. Founded just seven years ago, Tacoma Guitars has since become one of the leading guitar manufacturers in the United States.

The company is estimated to be the third-largest manufacturer of acoustic guitars in the nation, with active dealers not only in North America, but several international distributors that carry its products as well.

Ten thousand guitars a year are produced out of Frederickson, said Tacoma Guitars President Ferdinand Boyce.

A big part of the company’s success can be attributed to location.

Boyce said that operating out of Tacoma puts the company two days closer in terms of shipping products to the Far East, and it’s a natural location for producing products that are made from wood.

“American-made guitars command more money, because they’re a superior product,” Boyce explained.

For example, he said the Japanese are very picky about guitars, “so we have to make a good product.”

And that seems to be paying off in terms of innovation and growth of the business.

Tacoma Guitars has come up with a uniquely shaped, strategically placed soundhole that improves the performance of the guitar. By moving the soundhole from the center of the instrument to an upper area of the body of the guitar, Tacoma Guitars has lessened the need for bracing support, thereby providing a better way to shape the tone of the sound produced.

“We offer the market a wider range of voices than anyone else,” Boyce said.

Tacoma Guitars has gone from offering five models to 66, said Julian Henslee, sales manager.

Full development of the Frederickson Industrial Area could be hastened by the proposed Cross-Base Highway that will dissect Fort Lewis property and connect Frederickson with Interstate 5 south of Tacoma. A rally for the project is set for this Friday, at 10 a.m, in front of the Pierce County Annex, 2401 South 35th St.