TURLOCK -- Walls are rising, curbs are being installed and the equipment has been ordered for the Blue Diamond plant under construction at North Washington and Fulkerth roads.
"It's starting to look really good out there," Turlock City Engineer Mike Pitcock told City Council members at a meeting earlier this month. "The final layer of asphalt is going down and they continue to work on the traffic signal."
Ulli Thiersch, director of project construction for Blue Diamond, said progress in all areas of work is on or ahead of schedule.
"From a building perspective, everything is going fine," Thiersch said. "The city of Turlock has done a wonderful job of working with us on all fronts to get this thing going."
The almond giant plans to open its 200,000-square-foot manufacturing plant next May on a plot adjacent to a cornfield and across from a melon patch. Blue Diamond representatives said in announcing the Turlock plant that they will continue to process almonds at existing sites in Salida and Sacramento, with improvements planned at the Sacramento plant.
The big question for many people how many jobs the Turlock project will provide remains unanswered for now.
"At this point, I'm not prepared to tell you," Thiersch said Friday.
Although managers have identified and ordered about "80 percent" of the equipment for the lines that will be run at the Turlock plant, "we're still trying to figure out exactly how we're going to staff the lines," Thiersch said. "We're still making changes in the line layouts, which has impact" on how many people will be hired.
He said hiring is scheduled to start in late fall.
In the meantime, crews are building the plant and making the street improvements the city required; a traffic light being installed on North Washington should be functional in about a week, Thiersch said.
He said the reception from Turlock both officially and unofficially has been unconditionally positive. A large sign at the nearby Smith Chevrolet invites workers to come in for special deals on new cars or trucks.
"The city's been fantastic," Thiersch said. "We feel really welcomed in the community. It's been really good so far."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.