Mary’s Gone Crackers moving into Reno | nnbw.com
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Mary’s Gone Crackers moving into Reno

Duane Johnson
djohnson@nnbw.biz
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (third from left) pose with executives from Mary's Gone Crackers at a press conference on May 23. From left to right are: Dong Long, plant manager; Gary Zink, vice president of manufacturing; Sandoval; Mary Waldner, founder; and Craig Fraser, vice president of human resources.
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Mary’s Gone Crackers, the number-one producer of organic and gluten free crackers in the United States, announced its plans to open a manufacturing facility in Reno.

The company is also moving its headquarters into a 420,000-square-foot facility that is currently under construction in the North Valleys Commerce Center. Company officials anticipate operations will begin by late October or early November.

Mary’s Gone Crackers started in Gridley, Calif., before moving its sales and marketing departments to Chico, Calif., after outgrowing its original facility.

Mary Waldner, founder and chairman of Mary’s Gone Crackers, said the Reno region’s available manufacturing space and large workforce base was among several reasons the company chose Reno.

“We’ve had a hard time getting enough qualified people where we were at (in California) because we were in a really small town,” Waldner said.

She said it also made sense to have all its operations under one roof in northern Nevada.

“The manufacturing plant is the heart of what we do, and it seemed better to move everything here. We’ll have our R&D and our kitchen here as well. It was better to have everything all together, because our teams interact all the time and to have it split that severely, eventually I think it would be problematic.”

Waldner said the Gridley operations probably will stay intact, but the company may consider closing the Chico site in the future, as the Reno location develops.

Mary’s Gone Crackers scouted several other sites including in other California markets, as well as Oregon and Washington state before deciding on northern Nevada. Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a commercial real estate advisory firm headquartered in New York City, assisted the company in the selection process.

Before making a final decision, the company needed to weigh a number of factors, including available labor pool, tax rates and utility rates.

“For a company like this, you have to balance a number of objectives,” said Brad Lindquist, senior manager for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. “We had to find a place with a stable and growing labor market along with a growing food-related network from a university and educational level. This was on our short list of destinations.”

Executives from Mary’s Gone Crackers met with Nevada government officials and members of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada in early 2016.

Mary’s Gone Crackers intends to hire more than 200 employees by the end of 2017 at an average wage of $21.03. The company has already filled 10 positions at the new site, including those in managerial roles.

The new bakery was developed by the Cal Logistics Platform, a joint venture of Panattoni Development Company and CalSTRS. Panattoni’s sister company, Alston Construction will serve as the general contractor on the project.

The original goal was to have construction completed by early October, but minor setbacks have made a late October or early November opening more realistic.

Matt Clafton, vice president and general manager with Alston Construction, said slight snags in finalizing details on the leasing agreement, plus the unusually wet weather have contributed to the delays.

“It’s just the timeframe aspect that’s causing the delays,” Clafton said. “Had we started the project when we thought we were going to at the beginning of May, I think we would have achieved that goal,” Clafton said. “They’re still dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s from a lease standpoint.”

Still, Clafton said since Alston has developed similar projects in the past it poses no unusual challenge in getting the project done, and added the permitting process has gone fairly smoothly.

“The City of Reno has welcomed it with open arms,” he said. “That part of the process hasn’t been a problem at all.”

When completed, the project will be submitted to the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) status.

Waldner first came up with the concept for Mary’s Gone Crackers in the mid-1990s after her own battle with Celiac Disease, an immune disorder resulting from an intolerance for gluten-based foods. She struggled to find gluten-free foods for her diets and experimented with her own recipes for gluten-free crackers. Soon she was baking her creations for others. The positive feedback she received convinced her it could be a viable business venture. Waldner and her husband raised enough cash to start Mary’s Gone Crackers in 2004.

In addition to its variety of crackers, it produces pretzels, cookies and graham cracker style minis.

Today, Mary’s Gone Crackers products are available nationally at natural, specialty and mainstream grocery and club stores. It exports to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia. The company received the Sofi Gold award for the most outstanding cracker at the New York Fancy Food Show.

“In 12 years, we have created this monster, but it is a good monster,” Waldner said.