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New Circle Foods factory to create hundreds of jobs

From an abandoned Bank of America building in Barrio Logan to its new state of the art facility in Otay Mesa, Circle Foods has come up in the world.

On Monday, the foodmaker opened a new 159,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Otay Mesa, which will also serve as a corporate headquarters and test kitchen. The new Circle Foods facility will add about 350 jobs to the area, and the owners hope that number continues to grow.

"It's more than just a factory," Circle Foods Chief Operating Officer Eric Brenk said of the facility. "It's a tool for our sales force now to go out and show our customers our commitment to safe, quality food products in a very innovative and flexible manufacturing environment."

A small group of local entrepreneurs started Circle Foods 18 years ago as a tortilla maker in the downtown Barrio Logan neighborhood. The company grew to include other brands and make other foods, and in 2007, Claridge Inc. bought the company.

There already were two smaller Circle Foods plants in Otay Mesa. The new one is located in the Murphy Development Co.’s Siempre Viva Development Park.

"In San Diego, there's not a lot of choices to begin with in terms of building a facility of this size and stature," Brenk said of the company’s decision to build in Otay Mesa. “We needed to find a developer that already had a business park, needed to find a place where we could work very quickly to lay all the groundwork necessary to put this facility up and install the equipment and such.

“Otay Mesa was a logical place.”

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility Monday, said it was representative of what’s going on all over Otay Mesa.

“Otay Mesa really brings all the things that we’re trying to do in San Diego into focus,” Sanders said, noting the creation of roads, a water district and an enterprise zone in the region. “We have people down here who are developing big pieces of property so that we can consolidate and create jobs.”

Circle Foods still makes tortillas and tortilla chips, but the company also makes frozen foods that are shipped around the country. Chicken soft tacos, grilled four-cheese quesadillas and carne asada chicken quesadillas all pour out of the Otay Mesa facilities.

Stephen Bronfman, a member of the Seagram family who was made famous for its liquor sales, owns the parent company, Claridge Inc. Bronfam lives in Montreal but said he was happy to keep the company in San Diego, “especially in January.”

San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, who represents Otay Mesa’s district, said he was happy about anything that created good jobs. He also told a story about his mother who represented how popular frozen food like the kind made at Circle Foods have come.

“I used to love having my mother’s tortillas de harina, the fried tortillas that she would make in the morning,” Hueso said. “I called her recently (asking for the recipe) and she said, ‘Why? You can just go to the store and buy them and they’re great. Why even bother, it’s a lot of hard work.’”

Send your comments to Elizabeth.Malloy@sddt.com

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