An Italian produce packaging company plans to lease the former Jostens yearbook printing plant in Visalia.

published on April 12, 2021 - 11:04 AM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

One of the mainstays of the Visalia economy has been Jostens American Yearbook, which closed its doors about a year ago after 25 years.

The big printing plant churned out yearbooks for high school students all over the West Coast and historically employed up to 700 on a seasonal basis. More than 100 were laid off when it closed.

Now a produce industry printing company, Italian-owned Sorma USA LLC, plans to purchase the 100,000 square-foot building for its operation working with flexible, plastic packaging films to be used for consumer products for fresh produce firms such as Sunkist and Del Monte. Packages run the gamut from plastic clam shell to film-based bags to netting for produce like onions and avocados.

The ag-based firm has been in Visalia in a smaller rented warehouse at 9810 W. Ferguson Ave. since 2012.

Tracy Hart, CEO of the company, says, “Currently we employ 36, and with the expansion into the new facility, expect that to grow to 50 or more within 12 months.”

For several years Sorma was planning on constructing a new 70,000 square-foot building, but the re-use of the building vacated by Jostens at 231 Kelsey Ave. has apparently changed their plans.

The Sorma Group was established in 1973 and has become one of the world’s largest providers of packaging materials and machinery with an annual revenue of more than 300 million Euros per year.

They also sell, install and service packaging equipment manufactured in Europe for all regions of North America, including Mexico and Canada. Sorma USA LLC is the North American division of Sorma SpA and Netpack SpA, both headquartered in Cesena, Italy.

Making all this happen is developer Butch Oldfield of American Inc. who is also seeking approval to do a lot split on excess land he is also acquiring from Jostens. He plans to re-sell acreage north of the building that will allow Hillsdale Avenue to connect to the industrial park and open several lots for development in this busy part of the city, north of Highway 198.

Oldfield has re-leased several other large vacant buildings in Visalia including the former TreeHouse Foods building on Goshen and a large pipe storage building on Johnson near downtown Visalia, where an indoor soccer facility that includes a brewery is being built.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the former Jostens property will be leased to Sorma. Sorma is purchasing the plant.

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