Sunland expansion hits snags

By Tony Parra

Sunland Inc. executives and workers are anxious to have a new building in full operation to accommodate the growing demand for peanut butter and despite the delays, they hope to have the new building fully operational by late November or December.
Sunland Inc. president Jimmie Shearer said in mid-April he was hoping to have the building up by June and have it fully operational by the end of September. Shearer said this when United States Department of Agriculture officials presented Shearer with a $450,000 check in mid-April. The $450,000 was part of the $1.7 million dollar expansion project for the new building.
“Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong,” Shearer said. “We’re looking to get everything up and running in the later part of November or December.”
Shearer said one of the obstacles was the delay to have blueprints and plans approved by the construction industries division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. Shearer said another obstacle was having to make repairs to equipment.
According to Shearer, some of the tasks are touch-ups, such as painting and repairing holes in the wall. Shearer said Sunland Inc. officials had to add a firewall to the new building to have it up to code.
The new building will house the old peanut butter production line and the new peanut butter production line. In an August PNT article, Shearer said Sunland Inc. workers were processing 3,000 pounds of peanuts an hour, but with the new peanut production line they will be able to process 9,000 peanuts an hour.
Weston Pierce, peanut butter production manager, said the new peanut butter production line is larger and faster. He said one of the major differences is that with the old production line employees were having to box the peanut-butter jars — boxing for the new production line is automated. Pierce said he is anxious to have the new building fully operational.
“The machine will be doing a lot of the jobs people were doing,” Pierce said. “We’ve got a lot of business to take care of.”
Pierce said they hope to make a test run on Oct. 25. In March, Shearer said it will add 14 new jobs to Sunland Inc. He said the new workers have been hired and Pierce said those workers are in new training.
Shearer said peanut butter orders are on back order. Pierce said the they are working 24 hours six days a week.
Shearer said the plant is mostly processing West Texas peanuts at this time. He said one New Mexico peanut farmer is bringing his peanuts to be processed already, but Shearer hopes most New Mexico farmers will begin bringing in their peanuts on Monday.
He said the rain has been good for the peanut farmers, but they need dry weather for harvesting. Shearer said harvesting the peanut crops during the rainy weather will damage the crops and if the rainy weather extends further, a freeze could damage the crops, also.