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Liberty Fruit Co. Inc. in Kansas City, KS, is expanding its facility by 30,000 square feet, enabling it to consolidate its repacking division for better productivity and efficiency. The expansion is expected to be complete in March 2010 and will allow the produce distributor to increase its warehouse capacity by 50 percent and add to its produce storage capability and workforce.

Arnold Caviar, owner and chief executive officer of Liberty Fruit, addressed a group of city and Wyandotte County dignitaries, company officials and employees prior to the groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 9. He said, "As you grow and treat your customers right, this is what happens." He even drew a few chuckles when he made a comment to Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon about "getting our permit pretty quick so we don't get any weather issues coming up on us."

Scott Danner, the firm's chief operating officer, told The Produce News, "This spring and summer we were running 105-110 percent of capacity," which he said "became very inefficient and we knew we had to do something. The new repacking facility will be state-of-the-art with nothing like it in the Midwest."

Mr. Danner also explained that the new facility will be set up to quickly and easily become compliant with Produce Traceability Initiative guidelines when they become law.

The firm is also launching a new routing system, which will go into effect Dec. 1. The United Parcel Service of America Inc.'s Roadnet program will give Liberty Fruit a more efficient delivery system for its customers.

Liberty Fruit began its business in Kansas City in 1965 when founders Issie and Mary Caviar began selling fresh produce from their pick-up truck. Today, under the direction of Arnold and Carol Caviar, sons Allen and Cory, and daughter Allison, the company services more than 1,600 foodservice, institutional marketplace, retail and wholesale customers within a 500-mile radius of Kansas City including the states of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois.