When Wenatachee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers LLC acquired Dovex Fruit Co. last year, the deal increased Stemilt’s carton count by more than 10% and made Stemilt the nation’s largest supplier of organic tree fruit.

But merging with its neighbor has paid other dividends, as well.

Dovex’s Euclid Street facility, which added about 175,000 bins of fruit storage to Stemilt’s operation, is directly across U.S. Highway 97 from Stemilt’s Olds Station facility.

Brianna Shales, Stemilt’s communications manager, said the Dovex deal allowed Stemilt to close a packing facility in Chelan. Now, 95% of the company’s controlled-atmosphere rooms are within 10 miles of one of Stemilt’s six packing facilities.

“We don’t have to pick up fruit and bring it from one facility to another,” she said. “We see this as a benefit. It allows us to operate more efficiently and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Between September 2010 and December 2010, Shales said Stemilt used 17,000 less gallons of fuel and transported its fruit 90,000 fewer miles compared to the same period in 2009.

“It wasn’t the (main) reason we acquired Dovex,” Shales said, “but it was a factor.”