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Starkist to hire more workers with latest relocation

| Thursday, July 8, 2010

Starkist Co. said Wednesday that it plans to increase employment at its headquarters to 115 from 70 as part of its move to the Equitable Gas Building on the North Shore.

"At Starkist, we are committed to Pittsburgh and committed to growing our business in this great city," said CEO Donald J. Binotto. "We needed the room to grow, and we are thrilled to be relocating our headquarters on the fourth floor of the Equitable Building."

Primarily know for its tuna products, Starkist is occupying 32,000 square feet of space -- increasing its office space. The company previously occupied 23,000 square feet Del Monte Center, also on the North Shore. The move was completed Tuesday.

The Equitable Building includes an employee fitness center; a test kitchen for product development; and views and easy access to riverside trails.

Starkist was purchased in late 2008 from Del Monte Food Co. by South Korean conglomerate Dongwon Enterprises Co. Ltd. At that time, the decision was made to bring the company's headquarters back to Pittsburgh from San Francisco, where it had been moved several years previously.

The move to the West Coast in June 2008 involved 100 jobs. A skeleton staff remained in Pittsburgh, consisting of operations and research-and-development personnel.

Del Monte had acquired Starkist and other brands from H.J. Heinz Co. in 2002. Heinz relocated Starkist from Newport, Ky., outside Cincinnati, in 2000 and brought about 250 jobs here.

Starkist's new owners plan to expand the company's product line over and above tuna by capitalizing on Starkist's 37 percent tuna-market share in the United States, said Ingu Park, vice chairman of Dongwon.

In May, Starkist said it would cut 600 to 800 jobs this year from its tuna-processing plant in American Samoa. The move will reduce the plant's work force to fewer than 1,200 people -- down from a high of more than 3,000 in 2008. The territory's rising minimum wage has hurt its tuna industry's ability to compete with cheap labor in other countries.

Starkist's move on the North Shore makes it the second company to relocate to the 180,000-square-foot Equitable Building.

P.J. Dick Inc., along with its Trumbull Corp. unit, moved in December into about 60,000 square feet of space from its former headquarters in West Mifflin.

The space became vacant when EQT Corp., Equitable's parent, moved its headquarters to the former Dominion Tower -- now known as EQT Plaza -- at 624 Liberty Ave., Downtown, where it occupies 257,000 square feet of space. The EQT Plaza building is on the market to be sold.

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