Workers remove items from the former Affiliated Foods building Monday afternoon. Nor-Am Cold Storage recently purchased the building.

A demand in cold storage is prompting a St. Joseph business to expand.

Nor-Am Cold Storage purchased the former Affiliated Foods distribution center in Elwood, Kansas, on Monday.

“We are fortunate to be a part of a growing industry,” said Justin Brandt, general manager at Nor-Am in St. Joseph, Kansas City and now Elwood. “We’ll use this space to meet the demand of our current customers as well as to attract new customers in the area. Customer demand is pushing us to aggressively expand our footprint.”

Company officials said the Affiliated Foods building has been well maintained but needs $2 million to $3 million in upgrades and renovations to get it ready for production. The additional facility also will allow Nor-Am to hire about 50 more employees in the first 12 months once operational.

Nor-Am plans to have product in the 478,000-square-foot facility by the end of December.

“We try to partner with local businesses and contractors whenever possible,” said Scott Albers, vice president of operations for Nor-Am.

He plans to use as many local contractors as possible to clean and update the building.

“We are fortunate that we live in an area of economic potential and growth and can help facilitate expansions of growing industries from the St. Joseph area into Doniphan County,” said Adrienne Korson, director of economic development for Doniphan County, Kansas. “New capital investment and job creation like those at Nor-Am sustains and strengthens our region’s economy and portrays our commitment to economic development.”

Refrigerated warehousing is the business of keeping products cold before they reach their final destination.

“We just need more room,” said Ashley Albers, director of human resources at Nor-Am. “We’re full. We store product for all types of customers, whether it’s food or ingredients.”

The former Affiliated Foods location is right in Nor-Am’s wheelhouse, Ashley Albers said.

“We work a lot with Midwestern companies, so being right in this area is great for us,” she said. “And obviously we have staff and a team here to get us started up and it’s going to be fairly fluid for us as far as transitioning.”

A handful of Nor-Am employees will begin working out of the new warehouse around the middle of December. And as the space grows, so will the number of employees. The five-year projection is to be at about 100 employees in the Elwood building.

“We will move a few people from St. Joe to Elwood, but that’s just because they’re experienced, they’re our long-term employees and we need help getting started up,” Ashley Albers said. “Those positions will be back-filled in St. Joe so our headcount in St. Joe won’t change. So it really will be new jobs in the community.”

Jenn Hall can be reached at jenn.hall@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHall.