Bridgetown Natural Foods Growing Fast

Southeast Portland's Bridgetown Natural Foods is fast becoming a major player in Oregon's food processing industry.

By May 2012, the company had grown to 140 employees and it expected to hire another 50 over the next 18 months. Better yet, the workers live near where they work with more than 80 percent residing in local east Portland neighborhoods, according to the company.

Working in an 110,000-square-foot factory in the Lents neighborhood, Bridgetown produces custom, organic energy and snack bars and granola on contract for other companies. Production grew 150 percent in 2011 from the previous year and was on pace for a similar jump in 2012. In fact, the company's growth was so rapid that it managed to secure $7 million in private financing in late 2012 allowing it to pay off its loan from state taxpayers.

Business Oregon had helped the company in 2010 with a $350,000 loan from the Oregon Business Development Fund. The funds helped the company expand its production. Now company officials plan to double the number of production lines in 2012 which currently can produce 1 million snack bars and 25,000 pounds of baked snack products daily.

Food processing is an integral part of the manufacturing sector. Oregon has about 200 companies with at least 20 employees and annual sales of $1 million or more, according to the Northwest Food Processors Association.

Company CEO Dan Klock told The Oregonian in early 2012 that Bridgetown's typical client is someone who created a healthy snack bar, outgrew a home operation or small industrial kitchen and comes looking to scale up.

"Our mission is to make them successful," Klock told The Oregonian.

The company also offers product-development advice, access to local ingredients and "complex production solutions" for emerging brands. The company's sustainable business practices—including the sale of unusable food waste to local hog farmers and the implementation of energy efficiency measures in lighting, process machinery and facility cooling—helped earn it a "Rising Star" award from the Oregon Sustainability Board.