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Food companies cross the country to make homes in Oceanside

They don’t call it Oceanside for nothing. It was the city’s sea breezes and temperate climate, at least in part, that lured two prominent food companies from across the country.

The DiBella Baking Co. relocated its processing facility for baking biscotti products from New York to Oceanside. Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of DiBella in its new home.

Meanwhile, Virginia-based Olli Salumeria, which makes Italian-style, slow-cured meats such as salami and prosciutto, is building an 83,000-square-foot facility in Oceanside and plans to be fully operational by spring of 2015.

Both are family-run companies with long histories -- the DiBella Baking Co. dates back 104 years, and Olli Salumeria’s meats are based on 160-year-old family recipes.

It’s the nature of the foods themselves that make Oceanside an ideal destination for the companies’ production facilities.

“It’s (Oceanside’s) weather,” DiBella President and CEO Dennis Dice said. “For baking, we need a cool climate.”

The same goes for Olli Salumeria’s production of cured pork.

“Oceanside has a very mild amount of humidity and it’s relatively cool, so it works well with doing dried meats,” spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said.

But the climate isn’t the only factor in these relocations to Oceanside.

“The city of Oceanside was great to work with,” Dice said. “They’ve been hands on. They helped us build our (25,000-square-foot) facility, helped with resources and tax credits. It’s been a pleasure.”

Similarly, Johnson described Oceanside as “very business-friendly. They did a great job helping us find a place, and it was all very easy.”

Oceanside is already benefiting, jobs-wise, from DiBella Baking Co.’s presence.

“We worked with Goodwill Industries,” Dice said. “They helped us secure employees, and we helped them with their program to put disabled people to work.”

“We’ve hired almost 45 employees through Goodwill Industries and the city of Oceanside,” he said.

In addition to the jobs generated by the construction of the new Olli Salumeria facility, “We’ll probably roll out in stages 30 to 50 employees,” Johnson said.

Some will be transfers from Virginia but others will be hired in the Oceanside area.

Johnson said Olli is “expanding to California to be bicoastal,” and construction is in full swing.

“The shell is there,” she said. “On the inside we just finished hanging our Italian dry rooms. We’re finishing up the roofing and starting the interior build-out. Once the roof is completed, we should be able to start putting in the compressors and mechanical units on top of the roof.”

Understandably, the city of Oceanside is gratified by the arrival of the companies.

“It really revs up our economy and shows that North County and Oceanside, in particular, has hit its momentum,” said Tracey Bohlen, economic development manager for the city of Oceanside. “We’re just coming into our own in being a desirable location.”

Bohlen cited “price point” as one of the city’s attractions to the companies from across the country, but also “the assistance that we give as a city.”

Bohlen said that that the growth in business in Oceanside isn’t new; rather, it is the product of a cycle that began 10 years ago and has thrived as more investment capital has poured into the city and redevelopment projects got underway.

“We got the Wyndham (Oceanside Pier Resort) about seven years ago, and 333 Pacific, a Cohn (Restaurant Group) restaurant. It’s been slow, but now we are a ‘foodie’ destination and a brewery and pub destination with Masters Kitchen and Local Tap House and Kitchen,” she said.

Bagby Beer Company is also scheduled to open this month.

Of the two food companies, Bohlen said: “DiBella did not have a baking facility in the past. This is their first venture into having their own bakery and control over their product.”

Olli Salumeria’s new facility when built “will be the company’s West Coast plant operation.”

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