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Ceremony Welcomes Compass Foods To City Site
Feeling that he is coming back home, Thomas Mathias has opened Compass Foods in Riverbank, locating in the same Estelle Avenue plant where he used to work as a sales manager for McFarland Foods years ago.

"We process chickens here, we sell what we figure to be a healthy chicken, no antibiotics, no hormones," Mathias told those gathered at the site on a chilly Thursday morning for a formal Riverbank Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and welcome celebration.

"We moved from a facility in Waterford that was too small," Mathias added. "We had 13 employees when we came here, we are at 17 now and I hope to be up to 30 to 40 by the start of the year."

Mathias said when the plant he worked for closed down, he stayed in the business and eventually hoped to get back to Riverbank. He praised the efforts of city officials in working with him to get all the pieces in place to start the operation. On hand for the ribbon cutting with Mathias were his wife, Sandra and his mom Judy, who made the trip from Spain to be there for the ceremony.

"And today is my birthday," Mathias said amidst the smiling crowd at the ribbon cutting. "We just want to continue to grow the business."

Welcoming the crowd to the Thursday morning ribbon cutting was Riverbank City Mayor Virginia Madueno, with City Manager Jill Anderson, Vice Mayor Dotty Nygard and Police Chief Bill Pooley also among the dignitaries in attendance. Regional representative Daron McDaniel, out of Congressman Jeff Denham's office, was on hand with a proclamation for Mathias and his crew.

"You are to be commended for bringing economic vitality to the community," McDaniel said.

Chamber of Commerce representative Jerry Van Houten also welcomed Compass Foods as a chamber member and several chamber directors helped hold the giant ribbon that Mathias cut with the ceremonial oversized scissors.

Job applications were being accepted throughout the morning, and a crew was also busy barbecuing chicken for those in attendance to try.

Matt Woods of Modesto was serving as chief griller.

"I just started working here but I've known Mr. Mathias for about 30 years," Woods said. "I do a lot of barbecuing so I was honored that he asked me to do it."

Mathias said Compass Foods is the manufacturing brand for the company meat, while New Direction Family Foods is the retail arm.

Mathias said he has enjoyed settling in to the new facility and has gotten more involved in all aspects of the business.

"I've been selling chicken for 15 years but I had never cut one," he told the crowd, adding that his crew has been more than happy to introduce him to that craft. "They've taught me how to cut and package it."