Bruce Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms, has won a Citizen of the Year Award from the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The award honored Taylor for about $2 million in contributions to community organizations in 2010.

Causes served were nationwide; several were in the Salinas Valley. Recipients there included the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County; Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital; Palma and Notre Dame high schools; and the National Steinbeck Center, Taylor said.

“It’s a pleasure to be of service,” he said. “I operate plants in seven states and three countries. When you combine intention with commitment, you get something done.”

Taylor recalled his response to issues that affected Salinas over the years, from gang violence and library funding shortages to affordable housing.

“Friends around the country ask me, ‘What do you think?’ I say, it’s just part of the deal. We’ve got great people, we’ll get it fixed.”

“Bruce does everything with an unassuming, low-key approach,” said Salinas mayor Dennis Donohue, who introduced Taylor at the chamber’s 90th annual awards luncheon Feb. 10. “Those who have had a chance to visit his office know it’s a tiny cubbyhole loaded with tons of PDAs. He expects no recognition, making this all the more meaningful.”

A former president and chairman of Fresh Express, Taylor went his own way in the mid-1990s, forming Taylor Fresh Foods and Taylor Farms California by 1995.

Lately Taylor is repeating his history of renovating landmark business sites in Salinas. With Fresh Express, he helped convert an old Nestle’s site into the company’s main salad plant. For Taylor Farms, next up is a former Smucker’s site.

“We’re rebuilding Smucker’s to turn it into a salad plant,” Taylor said after the presentation. “It’ll be 160,000 to 200,000 square feet and (should) open March 30.”

Taylor companies would then be operating about 600,000 square feet of commercial space in Salinas.

The chamber also honored The Farm, an ag tourism stop in Salinas, as Small Business of the Year. Chris Bunn accepted the award.

Salinas Valley group honors Taylor Farms CEO

Mike Hornick

Bruce Taylor, chief executive officer of Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms, speaks Feb. 10 at the 90th annual awards luncheon of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce.