ANCHORAGE - A Seattle-based company has purchased a processing plant in Seward from Wards Cove Packing Co., which is leaving the salmon 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.
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 pink salmon and other value-added operations, May said. He figures the plant's location, just two hours by road from Anchorage and its airport, are 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 million 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, largely composed of national retailers," May said. He said the company also is 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 Alaska, West Coast and Canadian salmon, halibut and black cod, he said.
Wards Cove, one of the state's big fish-processing companies, shocked the industry in December when it announced it was getting out of the salmon business after several years of losses.
The company last week announced it would sell the former E.C. Phillips plant in Ketchikan and associated facilities in Craig to Cliff Phillips, son of the company namesake, and associates.
Wards Cove is negotiating with a number of other potential buyers for its Alaska salmon plants, company chairman Alec W. Brindle said.