TURLOCK -- Blue Diamond Growers will create more than 100 jobs with the opening of its facility in the spring with the prospect of more in years to come.
Construction has been completed on the first phase of the almond processing plant at North Washington and Fulkerth roads. Equipment is being installed; workers will arrive next.
The 200,000-square-foot plant will have 11 management and administrative positions and 100 production employees when it opens in May.
Blue Diamond officials said they do not know how many jobs will be created as the plant reaches 500,000 square feet in phases over the next 15 years.
Turlock Plant Manager Ulli Thiersch said Tuesday that the majority of those jobs will be local hires. The manager roles have been posted, as well as some maintenance openings. The rest of the positions should be posted within the next couple of weeks.
Applications will be accepted online via www.bluediamond.com. Thiersch said the state-of-the-art facility will be heavily automated, requiring less manual labor and more higher-level electronic skills.
The 100 plant jobs will fall into two categories: electromechanical positions responsible for facilities maintenance, and control and operations positions responsible for processing, packaging and all other aspects of food processing.
"All of the jobs are the technical, machine-operation type," said Bruce Lish, Blue Diamond's general manager of industrial operations. "We're getting out of the manual hard labor. People won't be stacking boxes anymore that is automated. These aren't the picking up and carrying boxes jobs people once did in manufacturing."
The positions will be full time with benefits. Thiersch said a wage scale has not been finalized, but they are all expected to start above minimum wage.
Thiersch said he is confident the company will be able to field a skilled labor pool in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. He said after working 15 years with Frito-Lay and 12 with Gallo before taking the position at Blue Diamond, he is familiar with the area's work force and confident in its qualifications.
"I know the talent is available here," he said. "Given the food industry in the valley, there is lots of fertile ground here of workers."
Hiring for the first phase of the plant opening will be done by Feb. 1. Thiersch said all the managers should be on board by Dec. 1.
Blue Diamond is working with the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance to help with its production position hiring. The influx of jobs is welcome for the county, which still struggles with a 13.5 percent unemployment rate, exceeding the state and federal rates.
To search or apply for jobs, visit www.bluediamond.com and click the "Careers" link at the bottom of the page.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her at www.twitter.com/turlocknow.