Nordic Naturals CEO on His Niche in Watsonville

Joar Opheim shares how the international omega-3 fish oil manufacturer landed in the Pajaro Valley.

A year ago, opened an eco-friendly, on Manfre Road, just past the Watsonville Airport.

Joar Opheim, CEO and Founder of Nordic Naturals who grew up in Arctic Norway, literally built himself a new home in Watsonville. The building—a distinctive white, yellow, red and green structure—is modeled after a Norwegian fishing village and is the humble headquarters of his international company.

Nordic Naturals produces omega-3 fish oil and essential fatty acid supplements, which are sold in markets around the world.

Opheim took time out to talk about why his company put down roots in Watsonville, what happens behind the scenes at Nordic Naturals and how the company gives back to the community.

Patch: How did Nordic Naturals come to Watsonville? What was appealing about this community from a business perspective?

Opheim: Initially, we came to Watsonville because we had outgrown my garage! I live in Aptos and as the business grew, we looked for space to expand near my home. Watsonville was ideal. We were able to purchase buildings on Hangar Way that met our needs for several years.

As we began to feel the need to bring everything under one roof, we looked for space to build. We found beautiful property near the airport that allowed us to construct a sustainable, comfortable building tailored to our unique needs for both our corporate headquarters and our distribution center. We were able to build large enough so that our needs are met now and we have room to grow.

Patch: You've invested a lot in the city in building a new facility. What motivated you to grow in Watsonville?

Opheim: Watsonville is a beautiful city and its central location at the junctures of Highways 1 and 129 and 152 allow easy access for ground transportation and deliveries. In addition to having its own general aviation airport, Watsonville is conveniently located within an hour of San Jose International Airport and within two hours of San Francisco International Airport.

The City of Watsonville always supported us in growing Nordic Naturals. That combined with a great work force, made it very attractive as a place in which to continue to do business.

On a personal note, the short commute to work means I have more time to spend with my family, which is a priority for me.

Patch: Talk a little about what Nordic actually does in Watsonville.

Opheim: All of our oils are manufactured in Norway. Here at our corporate headquarters, we house all of our administrative staff, marketing and sales staff (retail, international and professional divisions), research and education, quality assurance, materials and distribution.

Patch: How many people do you employ locally?

Opheim: We employ 145 people at our Watsonville facility. About 27 percent of them are Watsonville residents and almost all live in Santa Cruz County.

Patch: What city policies or programs have been vital to your company's continued presence and growth in Watsonville?

Opheim: Throughout our years of doing business in Watsonville, the City has been very supportive and certainly has created an atmosphere that welcomes business. The City Planning Department is very pro-business and was helpful in the permit process when we were planning our new building.

Watsonville city staff partnered with the County to find a way to pave the access roads to our new facility. That was very important to us as it impacted the safety of our employees as they traveled to and from work.  

We have also found great value from being located in the City of Watsonville’s Enterprise Zone and the tax credits associated with that program.

Patch: What else could local government be doing to support the business community in Watsonville?

Opheim: We know that local government would agree with us that the Redevelopment Agency was a very key program to local business. We hope the state budget allows for that agency to be reinstated soon.

We would also appreciate seeing greater tax breaks offered to local businesses. We hope those will materialize one day.

Patch: Nordic contributes back to the community. How you give back and why?

Opheim: At Nordic Naturals, we believe in Corporate Social Responsibility, a movement that encourages companies to embrace responsibility for the impact their activities have on customers, employees, communities and the environment. We’re dedicated to making a difference—from the way we source our raw materials, to the way we process our oils, to our charitable donation programs. Nordic Naturals actively supports philanthropic work and is an avid contributor to local organizations including:

  • Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust’s annual “Evening of Wine and Roses"
  • Omega Nu's Ducky Derby
  • United Way's Annual Gold Challenge and Evening with Marilyn
  • Long Marine Lab
  • Monte Foundation
  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Seymour Discovery Center
  • Boy Scout Troop 633
  • Local Schools: Aptos Academy, Vine Hill School, Rio del Mar Elementary, Twin Lakes Christian                       

We also always strive to patronize businesses in the area. If we arrange for catering at the office, we use local caterers. We use local printers, florists, and a local fulfillment house. We use a local production company for our media production needs. We like to do business locally whenever we can.

Patch: Seriousness aside, what's your favorite lunch spot in town?

Opheim: I used to enjoy eating at Zuniga’s by the airport and was very sorry to see them close.  Our beautiful new building offers stunning views from just about any window, so now I generally just enjoy staying in for lunch!

Patch: A lot of Watsonville residents may not know much about your company. Is there anything else you'd like to touch on?

Opheim: We are a leading supplier of omega-3 fish oils worldwide, offering more than 150 products in 35 countries. We offer a wide variety of flavors, concentrations and delivery forms for both human customers of all ages, and for their pets, as well. Our products are third-party tested, backed by science and proven pure and fresh. Unlike the cod liver oil of the past, our Gold Standard Arctic Cod Liver Oil™ even tastes great too!

We are also very committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Our new green headquarters received the LEED Gold Certification for innovation in energy and environmental design. We also employ green everyday practices by using recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials, eco-friendly cleaning products, and printing all literature on post-consumer recycled paper, using agri-based inks.

If our Watsonville neighbors want to know more, they can visit our website at www.nordicnaturals.com. We are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nordicnaturals and on Twitter at @NordicNaturals.

Editor's note: This is one in a series about unique Watsonville businesses.

Cathy P. March 22, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Very nice article. If my calculations are correct, 27% of 145 is about 39, so Nordic Naturals employs 39 Watsonville residents. I'm impressed. They have a very well done website also. Thanks for the info Jennifer.
Jennifer Squires March 22, 2012 at 04:46 PM
It's a significant number of Watsonville residents. Also, some (like Joar and his family) live in Aptos, which is still a part of our school system (property tax revenue, families involved in their kids' education, etc), so there are lots of positives here.
Rachel Stern March 23, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Good article, and nice facility. I lived in Sweden, and visited Norway a few times. Before reading this article I thought that the photo looked like a Norwegian fishing village, so this is a good recreation!
Dan the Omega Man March 24, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Nice article and omega 3 is great and you should try to increase your omega 3 levels. To learn more http://www.omega-3-for-your-health.com


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