By Kevin Wilson
Sunland Inc. has a business problem. They have too much.
“Right now, our peanut facilities are running 20 hours, seven days a week,” Sunland President and CEO Jimmie Shearer said, “and we’re still turning down orders (for peanut butter).”
It’s a problem the company is hoping to alleviate, thanks to a $1.7 million plant expansion. Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) got an upclose look at the new building, plus a tour of the current facility.
Udall helped Sunland earlier in the year by writing a letter of recommendation when Sunland applied for a $450,000 loan, which it received in April.
“This is a very important industry in New Mexico,” Udall said. “It’s just exciting to be here and see the opening of the new plant.”
Shearer said the expansion would create about 15 new jobs in the new building. Sunland Inc. currently has one manufacturing line for making peanut butter. Sunland Inc. officials will purchase an additional manufacturing line to make peanut butter, which officials said will cause a 200 percent increase in capacity.
Sunland currently processes 3,000 pounds of peanuts an hour, and Shearer said the expansion would enable the plant to produce 9,000 pounds per hour.
Shearer said the plan is to have the plant addition running by Sept. 1, but he admitted that late September is becoming more likely.
“It’s coming along slow,” Shearer said. “It’s way behind schedule and there have been a lot of reasons for it.
Some of the delays are with building regulations, as Shearer told Udall after the tour.
Udall scheduled the tour as part of a swing through area businesses. Udall also visited the Southwest Cheese plant, located near the border of Roosevelt and Curry Counties.
Sunland Inc. is owned by 12 local farmers, Shearer and Sunland Inc. Vice President Paul Newsom.