FARGO - A new 80,000-square-foot climate-controlled warehouse in south Fargo is providing several Midwest and Upper Midwest states with fresher fruit, vegetables and flowers, SpartanNash officials said Thursday, Nov. 14.

About 130 people, a mix of city officials and local businesspeople, attended a grand opening ceremony for the Fargo Produce Distribution Center that included a ribbon cutting and guided tours of the nearly $10 million facility at 3402 4th Ave. S.

“Today is all about Fargo and this region of the country,” Walt Lentz, SpartanNash’s president of food distribution said, as he stood in front of expansive displays of fruit, vegetables, nuts and other items..

The facility has the capacity to warehouse and distribute up to 1,600 different types of goods, including about 300 organically grown items. It also add 30 jobs to the area.

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“A very exciting day for SpartanNash,” said Victor Savanello, the company’s regional vice president of produce.

The distribution center can provide “a variety that is incomparable to any of our competition,” Savanello said. “We were hindered by (lack of) space” previously, “where the sky is the limit now."

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SpartanNash operates in all 50 states and supplies food to the U.S. military, too. The Fargo distribution center serves chain and independent grocery stores in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, Illinois and Michagan’s Upper Peninsula, said Tim Eberle, SpartanNash's Minneapolis-based director of produce merchandising for the Midwest.

“We want to thank you” for building the facility in Fargo and bringing its jobs here, Fargo City Commissioner and Deputy Mayor Dave Piepkorn told SpartanNash officials at the event.

“A lot of people are going to be surprised that Fargo is going to be a banana-ripening center,” Piepkorn quipped, before adding, “On behalf of Fargo, thank you very much. We love having you here. Welcome, and we wish you all the success.”

Ryan Aasheim, the chief business development officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, said the facility is important to the area.

“This is economics 101, right here,” Aasheim said. “It signifies that you’ve got a long future here in the region.”

The distribution has several temperature-controlled zones in the warehouse and shipping area. It also has seven state-of-the-art rooms for ripening bananas, mangoes and avocados, with space to add four more ripening rooms.

On the east side of the facility is another 20,000-square-feet of space that is rented to a distribution company, said Joe Roden, a SpartanNash merchandiser based in Fargo. If demand grows for the distribution center, that space can be converted to SpartanNash’s use, he said.

The distribution center’s new cooling systems and energy-efficient lighting saves money, and the company has found other savings in its logistics chain, Eberle said.

SpartanNash is partnering with Dole to speed the shipment of food to the region. Under the new system, fruit and vegetables can make it from a California field to a grocery store shelf in 6½ days, compared with 9½ days previously.

“We’re going to be just that much more fresh,” Eberle said.