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Source: Heeren Bros. news release

Heeren Bros., Inc. today announced plans to modernize its operations by building a new $22 million state-of-the-art facility in Alpine Township.

The Grand Rapids based company, which is the largest family owned wholesaler, marketer and distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables in Michigan, plans to break ground this month on its new 170,000-square-foot, LEED-anticipated facility.

The new facility at 1055 7 Mile Road will be home to the corporate headquarters, warehouse and distribution center, and apple storage and packing facility with new apple grading and packing lines.

The current schedule for ground breaking is contingent on finalizing tax abatements and related issues with the township.

Heeren currently operates two apple packing and storage facilities and a warehouse distribution center in West Michigan. The new facility will allow it to consolidate its operations into a single facility located in the heart of the region's apple-growing country. The move should be completed in August 2013, just in time for the start of apple packing season.

Through its subsidiaries and joint ventures, Heeren manages more than 1,500 acres of orchards, represents 75+ family-owned Michigan grower operations and packs and sells more than 20 percent of all fresh apples grown in Michigan.

"We are incredibly pleased to expand and upgrade our operations and capabilities in West Michigan," said Hal Roy, CEO of Heeren Brothers. "The property in Alpine Township will allow us to consolidate operations while adding new technology designed to make us more labor efficient, become better compliant with the new food safety standards and allow us to be a better steward of our natural resources.

"Since we opened our doors in 1933, Heeren has continued to grow and innovate as a company. This new facility represents a significant investment in our future and demonstrates our commitment to growing in West Michigan."

The new facility is being designed by Dixon Architecture and will be built by First Companies, both of which are West Michigan based companies. It will feature:

Expanded storage capacity by 19 percent, including 15 controlled atmosphere rooms, enabling Heeren to store more apples

Expanded processing capabilities, featuring multiple state-of-the-art apple packing and grading lines with color and defect-sorting as well as presort capabilities

Energy-saving refrigeration equipment and other energy-conscious features which will allow Heeren to pursue LEED certification

Better compliance with food safety regulations and initiatives, including SQF 2000 and the Bio-Terrorism Act of 2002.

Heeren Brothers got its start in 1933 when brothers John and Elmer Heeren began a produce trucking business, bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from the South to sell in Grand Rapids. Over the next 30 years, they expanded their operations, selling and distributing produce, purchasing land and building an apple packing and storage plant.

The second generation of Heerens joined their fathers in 1962 as the business continued to grow, adding new facilities and expanding capabilities. The third generation stepped into leadership roles in the late 1990s as their fathers prepared to retire. In the mid-2000s, Heeren launched a series of subsidiaries and joint ventures - including All Fresh GPS, Ridgeking Apple Packing and Storage and Gourmet Specialty of Michigan - in a move to expand its product offerings and geographic reach.

In December 2006, Heeren acquired rival J.A. Besteman Co., creating the largest family-owned, full-line produce distributor in Michigan. The acquisition allowed Heeren to expand its distribution footprint throughout the Midwest and add national, regional and small independent grocers to its retail customer list.

In August 2011, Ridgeking joined forces with Michigan-based Applewood Orchards to create All Fresh GPS, which focuses exclusively on the marketing of Michigan apples. Today, the fourth generation of Heerens has taken roles within the growing company.

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