Officials with O-AT-KA Milk Products and Upstate Niagara Cooperative broke ground on a new warehouse expansion this morning at the company's plant off Ellicott Street, Batavia.
Participating in the top photo are Steve Hyde, Ray Cudney, Steve Golding, Bill Schreiber, Dan Wolf, John Gould, Dave Nutting and Mike Patterson. Second photo: Upstate's Board of Directors.
"This is an important day for the growth of the dairy industry in Western New York," said Wolf, a member of the cooperative's Board of Directors. "The 360 farms that I represent depend on this business and we're not going anywhere. This is our roots and we'll be here. We will continue to grow and develop here in Western New York, and (to) create jobs and so forth that go with that is critical to us."
Empire State Development today announced that O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative, Inc., a dairy cooperative based in Batavia, will be expanding their warehouse and material handling functions at their Batavia site. O-AT-KA is majority owned by Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., headquartered in Buffalo and also by Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative with a strong presence in Central NY.
O-AT-KA helps to ensure there is a market for milk produced by more than 400 farms in the Western, Finger Lakes and Central NY regions. A new warehousing facility and equipment room will allow the cooperative to continue to grow its production and create 24 new full-time positions within three years, raising total employment to more than 350 positions.
“We consider this project to be a game changer,” said Michael Patterson, O-AT-KA’s chief financial officer. “This not only enables us to meet our immediate needs but positions O-AT-KA for growth into the future. Three factors driving this initiative are worker safety, food quality and operational efficiencies. These three legs of the stool will be the backbone supporting O-AT-KA’s continuing growth here in New York State.”
The economic support and assistance from local and state agencies were critical factors in undertaking this project. New York State, through Empire State Development, will provide a $400,000 capital grant to assist in bringing off-site warehousing back on site by building a 195,000-square-foot warehouse and a 35,000-square-foot equipment room to their existing facility.
The company will also purchase new material handling equipment and repurpose existing equipment. The new space will afford the company more efficiency, provide safety for workers, and allow for cost savings, thereby boosting their competitive edge in the market place.
The growth of on-site warehousing also enables the company to grow its production of shelf-stable, dairy-based beverages. O-AT-KA has a goal of increasing its export business by 10 percent over the next several years, which will result in approximately 25 percent of the total production being exported.
As the No. 1 manufacturing employer in Batavia, O-AT-KA strives to foster productive, long-term relationships with their employees. The cooperative, which produces dry, condensed and evaporated dairy products, was established in 1959 with five employees and has grown to 332.
“Agricultural and food processing has been identified as one of the top Finger Lakes REDC strategies,” said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “The O-AT-KA project aligns with the council’s goal to optimize business retention and expansion, and support the growth of food-processing companies in the region.”
“This commitment by New York State to O-AT-KA demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s support of economic development in Upstate New York and in particular to the agribusiness industry in Genesee County,” said Paul Battaglia, chairman of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. “We look forward to continuing working with New York State on other economic development opportunities."
"O-AT-KA has played a major role in our local economy for decades. Now, expansion plans, along with 24 new jobs, will help to secure the cooperative's presence in Batavia for years to come. I commend O-AT-KA CEO Bill Schreiber for selecting Genesee County to invest and grow," said State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer.
“I am pleased to see the growth and expansion of an important Western New York agricultural staple such as O-AT-KA. As a small business and farm owner for over four decades, I realize the integral part O-AT-KA plays in New York’s dairy industry and Western New York’s economy. Having grown up in Batavia, I have seen the company grow from just a few employees to over 300 people – truly epitomizing the American dream of entrepreneurship. As lawmakers we must continue to protect small businesses such as these and take measures to grow New York’s economy,” said Assemblyman Steve Hawley.