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April 14. 2014 6:57PM

Expanding

Associated Grocers’s Pembroke plant expands


Members of the Associated Grocers of New England Board of Directors gathered Monday to break ground on a 105,000-square-foot expansion to its 380,000-square-foot Pembroke facility. (RYAN O’CONNOR PHOTO)

PEMBROKE — In the eight years since relocating operations to Pembroke, Associated Grocers of New England has added 50 jobs.

Monday, dozens of AG executives, board members and Pembroke officials and state leaders gathered at the company’s 380,000-square-foot facility at 11 Cooperative Way to break ground on a 105,000-square-foot expansion.

Though the project brings a state-of-the-art automated product movement system to the facility, AG President and CEO Mike Bourgoine said there won’t be jobs lost. On the contrary, he said he hopes to add several positions in the near future.

“The word ‘automation’ sometimes scares people, but it’s all about building jobs and building growth for the company,” he said. “You know, in our business, you have to grow. It’s just the nature of it ... in order to continue to expand and provide more benefits to the employees, you have to grow, and it’s getting a little harder to do that unless you get yourself something a little different to do it with, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Many employees will be trained to operate the new automated system, while others will be reassigned to similar positions.

“What’s impressive to me is that despite the recession, they’ve had the job growth ... and as they said today, high-paying, decent jobs, which is something we’re always looking for in the state,” said state Rep. Sally Kelly, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re honored that they’re in Pembroke because job growth is our number-one priority.”

In addition, AG is bringing in many more natural organic and specialty food products to attract additional clients, Bourgoine said.

He noted the expansion should be complete by the end of the year. And he said the region’s largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor plans to continue to expand on its 100-acre site.

“We’ve grown at such a rapid clip over the last seven years or so, that we’ve already outgrown the building, and this allows us to continue with our growth plan for many years to come,” he said. “And we think, because of the automation we’re adding, we’re going to be able to do some things more effectively for our current customers. Our goal is to bring on some new customers as well.”

AG has worked with a co-op business model since 1946 and serves many independent retail grocers of various sizes, along with country and convenience stores. Currently AG operates seven corporate stores including Bi-Wise Market in Allenstown, which was purchased this year and turned into a Sully’s. The Sully’s in Goffstown was recently refurbished and updated.

AG moved to Pembroke in 2006 after more than 50 years in Manchester. Bourgoine said it’s been a near-perfect marriage.

“It was difficult finding property in Manchester to build on, so to find this (land) in Pembroke and have it only be 20 miles away so our employees didn’t have a long commute, has worked out great for us,” he said. “The town’s been very receptive to what we’re trying to accomplish, and we’ve been very responsive to their needs.”

State. Rep. Dianne Schuett, who also attended the event, said AG has been a great corporate neighbor.

“The whole AG group has just been a marvelous partner in Pembroke, contributing to all sorts of town events, Old Home days and things of that nature,” Schuett said.

roconnor@newstote.com



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