, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 21, 2013

US Foods gets a conditional nod from Seabrook


Speaking solely as a private citizen, attorney and former Seabrook fire chief Jeff Brown offered a warning about letting Salisbury dictate terms for a Seabrook development.

“I would be very cautious about granting the Commonwealth (of Massachusetts) a foot in the door here,” Brown said. “The Commonwealth has a vested interest in seeing this project doesn’t come to Seabrook.”

Brown was referring to the fact that US Foods current 188,000-square-foot facility in Peabody will close if and when the company moves to Seabrook. US Foods officials have said they’ve enjoyed their decades in Peabody, but that facility has been too small for years and can’t be expanded. Although Peabody officials said they’d reach out to try to keep the company in the city, due to US Foods size requirement, it isn’t possible.

In the end, the board removed its Salisbury-related condition for approval, but asked Manzi to take the lead in keeping Harrington in the loop.

Yesterday, Harrington was satisfied with that consideration, adding his letter was never intended to kill the project, just to protect the town’s water supply.

“We’re not opposed to this project going to Seabrook, I want to make that clear,” Harrington said. “It’s just that aquifers know no boundaries. I had a very good discussion with Seabrook’s Town Manager on Tuesday and he appreciates our concerns.”

With Seabrook’s conditional approval granted, Barnes’ next move is to present the project to US Foods Board of Directors for its go-ahead. A $62 million project — $27 million for the property and $35 million in renovations — is a considerable investment, Barnes said. The US Foods board must weight the potential risks and benefits to the company, then decide if it’s sound, he added.

One of the country’s largest food service distributors, US Foods has 24,000 employees nationwide, with 60 distribution centers in 37 states. With annual revenues of $21 billion, it is among the largest privately held corporations in the country, according to published reports.

With headquarters in Illinois, the company is owned and run by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc. and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., two large private equity firms that acquired the company in 2007 for $7.1 billion.

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