One of the region's oldest transportation, warehouse and distribution operations is planning a $28 million expansion in the City of Commerce that would create 700 new jobs and allow it to retain 400 existing jobs.

Dart Entities, which also has equipment and real estate operations at its headquarters in the Commerce Industrial Center, plans two 72,000-square-foot food-processing plants on land adjoining its headquarters.

Dart also plans to buy and lease back an existing 175,000-square-foot building housing a paper products manufacturing company. Under the proposal, the company would use funds from Dart's purchase to expand operations onsite.

Plans currently call for construction on the first of the two new buildings project to begin next month, with completion set for mid-2006. The buildings are expected to house a total of 700 new workers. Dart is currently in negotiations with outside food processing companies to lease the buildings.

Dart has secured about $16 million in private financing for the project. According to city officials, construction is contingent on receiving a $10 million loan from the federal Housing and Urban Development department and clearing city and environmental approvals, which could take several more months.

Officials at Dart and its real estate affiliate, Dedeaux Properties, did not return calls.

City of Commerce officials originally intended the HUD loan to go toward an urban entertainment center elsewhere in the city, but that project ran into delays. Instead, when city officials learned that Dart was considering projects outside city limits, they proposed the idea of the HUD loan to Dart. In exchange for receiving the loan, Dart must commit to 51 percent of all new jobs going to persons with low or moderate incomes.

Dart owns 10 million square feet of warehousing, distribution and food processing plants in Los Angeles, Ontario and Naperville, Ill. It also leases various types of equipment and provides third party logistics services.

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