Brand Story - Alpine Foods emerged from 2020 with expanded facilities and zero layoffs.
Against the backdrop of one of the worst economic disruptions in recent history, Alpine Food Distributing Inc., one of the largest food redistribution companies in the Western U.S., kept its commitment to its employees and customers and safely navigated the pandemic, emerging on the other side of 2020 positioned for continued growth and success.
It was a challenging past year by any measure. And like many other Oregon businesses, in early 2020 Milwaukie, Ore.-based Alpine Foods was grappling with the effects of the pandemic, which hit the restaurant industry with particular intensity.
The company aimed to secure funding that would support its business, employees and customers through a challenging time, while continuing to maintain seamless operations to ensure delivery of essential goods to communities across ten states.
What began as a search for a solution to financial strains resulting from the pandemic prompted Alpine to reach out to key partners to discuss potential short- and long-term options for strategic and operational improvements.
The government’s economic lifeline, a PPP loan, was among the short-term financial tools the food distributor aimed to secure, and the business seemed like a great fit for such a loan. The 40-year company also needed to look beyond the immediate, critical need and position itself for continued long-term success.
“Pre-pandemic, we thought we had a good bank relationship and reached out with the full expectation that they would help us, so we were surprised to learn they wouldn’t help us secure PPP funding,” recalls Shawn Hood, general manager, Alpine Food Distributing.
Alpine was able to scale up its Milwaukie-based facilities from a 280,000- to a 500,000-square-foot space by working with Umpqua Bank to consolidate lines of credit and refinance.
When Strategic Partners Matter Most
When disruptions force businesses to pivot, having strategic financial partners is vital, especially if changes with financial implications need to be made quickly. Recognizing how integrally connected businesses are to the health of local economies and communities, Umpqua Bank felt great urgency to help Oregon businesses as the pandemic took hold. That approach led to an opportunity to support Alpine through the initial stages of the pandemic and moving forward.
“We recognized how high the stakes were for businesses and communities and chose to make our resources available to all businesses, not just current customers,” explains Jonathan Dale, Umpqua Bank’s Pacific Northwest region middle market banking executive. “Partnership is always important, but especially during difficult times and we’re committed to being there for the business community.”
In 2020 alone, the bank processed nearly 17,000 PPP loans, facilitating roughly $2 billion in SBA funding and saving more than 250,000 jobs in communities across the West Coast. And by being one of the first banks in the country ready to accept PPP applications, Umpqua was able to offer immediate support to customer like Alpine with continued focus on long-term partnerships.
“They called us back and the relationship grew. We were in contact on a daily basis for two to three weeks and were introduced to the management team,” Hood says. “We were able to keep our people and had zero layoffs through this period. It was 100% because of working with Umpqua that we didn’t have to take that tough step.”
And the work did not end there. Alpine worked with Umpqua to analyze all levels of its operations, streamlining strategically wherever possible to reduce overhead costs and boost efficiency.
Structuring Operations for Long-Term Success
Disruption forces businesses to look at what they do and how they do it more closely. As a result, many businesses have emerged from the pandemic more efficient and prepared for growth. Alpine worked closely with Umpqua to look beyond the immediate and most pressing need for capital, diving deep into the business’s growth strategy for the coming years, examining its equipment, facilities and operations. By consolidating lines of credit and quickly refinancing, Alpine was able to scale up from a 280,000 to a 500,000-square-foot space as it adapts to growing demand and the need for increased inventory given supply chain challenges.
“They helped us finance and purchase a new building, and they were able to turn it around in 30 days. That’s unheard of, especially in the midst of a pandemic,” Hood says. “We also had some outdated software that we were using with our credit card provider, and Umpqua helped us streamline some of those important processes.”
Despite disruptions and challenges, Alpine made important strategic shifts that helped position it for continued success.
Alpine Food Distributing Inc. secured funding through Umpqua Bank to maintain seamless operations during the pandemic in order to ensure delivery of essential goods to communities across 10 states.
Navigating the Future Together
According to Hood, Alpine’s experience reinforced the importance of a close working relationship with partners with shared values.
“Umpqua’s values align with who we are and with our values. That’s really what attracted me to how they work,” Hood explains. “They really care about their customers and provide access to leadership and expertise when we needed it.”
Due in part to solid management and strong partnerships, just a few months later, Alpine was able to view 2020’s challenges as an opportunity to optimize operations and emerge stronger than ever. Meanwhile, Umpqua continues helping clients like Alpine see around corners and adapt to any circumstances thrown their way.
“I really use financial institutions as support,” Hood concludes. “Having somebody stand behind you, be there to support you and navigate some of the struggles helps guide us to better business decisions.”
Whatever potential changes or disruptions the future may bring, businesses with mutually tenacious and purpose-driven strategic partners will help make the necessary adjustments to stabilize and grow.
Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues. The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.