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Goya breaks ground on $127M headquarters, distribution center

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Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Goya Foods President Bob Unanue shake hands at the groundbreaking for the headquarters project in Jersey City. (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)
Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Goya Foods President Bob Unanue shake hands at the groundbreaking for the headquarters project in Jersey City. (Aaron Houston / NJBIZ)

Construction is set to begin on Goya Foods' headquarters and distribution center, in Jersey City, where the company plans to consolidate hundreds of jobs in less than two years as part of the largest expansion in its history.

The Latino and Caribbean food manufacturer today held a groundbreaking ceremony for the 615,000-square-foot facility, which is being developed by Rockefeller Group Development Corp. When complete, the building will house 500 jobs from Goya's existing Secaucus headquarters and its Long Island, N.Y., facility.

The future building is among the high-profile projects that will be financed through the state's Urban Transit Hub tax credit program. In October, the Economic Development Authority awarded Goya an $81.9 million credit, to be issued once the facility is open, in return for its capital investment and plans to keep its jobs in New Jersey. According to Gov. Chris Christie, who attended the groundbreaking, the capital investment is worth $127 million.

After the ceremony, Goya President Bob Unanue said the company considered moving to Pennsylvania and locations in New York, but the incentive program factored into a decision that was already being swayed by the prospect of building on investments that the company has made here over nearly 40 years.

"We're a marketing company and we're a manufacturing company, but at the same time we're a logistics company," Unanue said, later adding, "I think at the end of the day, we realized it was the best choice given all of the criteria."

The 40-acre construction site is not far from Goya's Secaucus office, which will be retained by the firm and converted to a manufacturing plant. Rockefeller Group CEO Kevin Hackett said his firm has owned the site since late 2006, but was "holding out for a world-class tenant" before beginning development.

In May, the New York-based developer opened a new headquarters for another international company, BASF, in Florham Park. Hackett said the parcels adjacent to the building have generated interest among other world-class companies, creating prospects for another new office development by the firm.

"One barometer of the level of interest is the number of tours that potential tenants want to take of our properties, and there are very few open slots for tours," Hackett said in an interview.

Unanue said Goya's new facility will have state-of-the-art automation, allowing it build on investments in areas like logistics, demand planning and warehouse management. The headquarters is expected to be open by spring 2014.

Goya, which was founded in New York in 1936, moved to Secaucus in 1974 after outgrowing its facility in Brooklyn. The privately held firm is now the largest Hispanic-owned food manufactuer in the country.

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