Nordic Naturals opened its new headquarters at 111 Jennings Drive in Watsonville recently and held a tour of the facility Monday. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula)
Nordic Naturals opened the doors of its brand new facility on Manfre Road Monday and invited members of the community to have a look inside at the building’s energy-efficient and employee-friendly design.
“It’s really exciting,” City Manager Carlos Palacios said during a tour. “It’s exactly the kind of business and employer we want to see expanding in Watsonville.”
Nordic Naturals, established in 1995, makes and sells fish oil supplements, distributing to more than 20 countries on six continents. The building complex, though multi-colored on the outside, is all green inside, with high-efficiency windows and plenty of natural light, and is made of materials that are local in some cases and recycled in most. Nordic Naturals partnered with Ausonio Inc., a construction company in Castroville that won the prestigious Tilt-Up Achievement Award for the building.
Joe Piedimonte, corporate controller for Ausonio, said he expected the project to earn the first Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design qualification in Santa Cruz County. The LEED Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification program for green buildings. The LEED program reviews sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Piedimonte said many little things, that really amount to large projects, all added up to the building’s certification. For instance, all the air in the building was pumped out and replaced. What made it a challenge, he said, was sticking with a design and using materials that had a Norwegian feel. The exterior design of the building is inspired by Norwegian fishing villages and the interior design follows suit with Norwegian textures.
“We used native, drought-resistant plants on the outside, but we looked for plants that resembled what you might see in Norway,” Piedimonte said.
The floors, walls and cubicles were made of various recycled materials, but touches of stone and woodwork have been added to represent traditional Norwegian building designs.
“In Norway, stone and wood is the traditional way of building, so it was a challenge to be green and still create this look,” said Vivian Gunnerengen of Interior Lighting and Design, the firm tasked with finishing the interior.
The new complex houses 125 employees and 118,000 square feet of space, with 43,000 square feet of corporate offices and the remaining footage dedicated to warehousing and wholesaling. The warehouse currently consists of 44,000 square feet, with the remaining square footage to be filled in the second phase of the project.
Warehouse manager Mike Blinkenberg said the old warehouse on Jennings Drive was just 9,000 square feet — and the new warehouse has more room vertically, has windows so employees can enjoy natural light and a nice view, and is designed more efficiently.
“This is by far the most comfortable warehouse I’ve ever been in,” he said.
Nordic Naturals founder and CEO Joar Opheim said employee comfort was a top concern.
“This building is for the employees,” he said. “Our employees are the most important thing we have here.”
Opheim said the inspiration for the building, though, was his homeland in Norway.
“Environmental responsibility is taken very seriously there,” he said. “It has always been a part of Nordic Naturals’ mission to demonstrate our leadership around important issues that affect the environment and our society.”
Opheim said he hopes to keep expanding in Watsonville, but would like to see more help from local government.
“We’re hoping we can get as much support as we possibly can from the city and the county,” he said. “Salaries and taxes are high here and California lacks incentives for business that other states have.”
One issue Opheim said he had was with access to his new business. Tucked away on Manfre Road, Opheim said one of the conditions of building the new complex was that he take care of the road.
“Manfre Road is now basically our responsibility to maintain,” he said. “That’s a public road. Other states are doing everything they can for businesses, but not here.”
Share on Facebook