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Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park

September 24, 2012 - 5:44pm

Big event in Batavia today that I wish I could have attended and covered -- the grand opening of the Alpina yogurt plant. We did assign a photographer and should have more coverage later, but meanwhile, here's the official photo and press release from Alpina:

Alpina Foods today celebrated the official Grand Opening of its first North American manufacturing facility, the latest yogurt plant to open in Upstate New York. Though the 67-year-old company has sold its broad line of dairy products in American markets for several years, the Batavia, N.Y. facility is its first plant in the U.S.     

Joined by U.S. Congresswoman Kathleen Hochul, New York State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, and Empire State Development President and CEO Kenneth Adams, top officials from Alpina Foods and its Colombian parent company, Alpina, marked the occasion with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

“This is a momentous day for Alpina,” said Julian Jaramillo, Alpina’s CEO. “We would like to recognize the many people and organizations across the state that have helped make this moment a reality. We are excited to get started and continue to grow along with our employees, the region, and the yogurt industry in New York.”

The Alpina Foods plant already employs 30 new employees, and expects to hire at least 20 additional team members in the coming months. This is in addition to the 20 employees located in Alpina Foods’ Miami offices and in regional positions elsewhere in the U.S.

Over the past year, with the help of co-packing partners, the company has launched several new products for U.S. consumers: Alpina Revive Greek yogurt, Alpina Restart traditional yogurt, Alpina Renew oat smoothie, Bon Yurt by Alpina low-fat vanilla yogurts, and Juan Valdez Café Latte by Alpina.

“Today’s opening of Alpina Foods marks an exciting new phase of economic development in Genesee County and Western New York,” said Rep. Hochul. “With the initial creation of up to 50 jobs, Alpina will significantly contribute to the economic vitality of the region. I look forward to working with Alpina, the Genesee County Economic Development Center, and local farms as we work to strengthen Western New York’s economy.”

"The State Legislature, working with Governor Cuomo, has made tremendous strides in improving New York State's business climate,” said Senator Ranzenhofer. “Especially during the last two budget cycles, the decision to cut spending and lower taxes has signaled to many companies that New York is the right place to do business, and for many yogurt companies, such as Alpina, it has positioned Genesee County and Batavia as the 'Yogurt Capital' of the world. I applaud Alpina for opening its first U.S. facility in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park."

Drawn by access to the thriving agriculture and dairy industry of Upstate New York, along with a ready labor market, Alpina chose Batavia for its 10th global manufacturing facility, following locations in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The company worked closely with the State’s Excelsior Jobs Program and numerous state and regional economic development organizations on the location of the 10-acre site, and was further attracted to the region after its work with nearby Cornell University and Rochester Institute of Technology.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the production of Greek yogurt has become a critical job creator and driver of economic activity in New York State,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams.  “A number of major yogurt manufacturers have taken advantage of this region’s existing infrastructure, including the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, which is available for dairy processing, as well as its skilled workforce, proximity to milk supply and ability to reach target markets. We welcome Alpina Foods to the U.S. and are so proud that they have chosen to locate its first specialty yogurt plant in the U.S. right here in Genesee County.”

All Upstate New York residents are likely to appreciate Alpina Foods’ new location. The company is well known for its commitment to the communities in which it operates. With a philosophy that leadership refers to as “collective prosperity,” Alpina Foods wants to transfer success beyond the company, and positively impact the surrounding community, including their employees, business partners, the environment, and others in the region.

“We are committed to our success in Batavia and the U.S.,” said Alpina CEO Julian Jaramillo. “It is our corporate practice to grow with our surroundings, hand-in-hand with our neighbors.”

Photo, from left: Juan Pablo Fernandez, GM, Alpina Foods; Julian Jaramillo, CEO, Alpina; Roger Parkhurst, Director of Operations, Alpina Foods; Congresswoman Kathy Hochul; state Senator Michael Ranzenhofer; Kenneth Adams, President & CEO, Empire State Development.

September 19, 2012 - 12:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Town of Batavia planners are pushing forward with a proposal to add a second roadway into the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, connecting the park with Route 63.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said the need and opportunity for the roadway is driven by the requirement of the Muller Quaker yogurt plan for a gas main into the park and a $1 million grant for infrastructure upgrades from state's Office of Community Renewal.

The roadway was always part of the plan, Mountain said, but not until Phase 3.

In the nearer term, the town was going to construct an emergency vehicle access road through the County Highway Department's lot on Cedar Street, but it is more cost effective, Mountain said, just to build the connector to Route 63 now.

The design of the roadway needed to coincide with the gas main design for Muller Quaker, and Muller Quaker wanted to bring the line in through vacant property to save costs.

The vacant land is primarily made up of parcels owned by O-AT-KA Milk Products and local farmer Don Partridge.

The town is negotiating now with both property owners for a right-of-way access, but all of that land (in green on the map) was always intended to be part of the Phase 3 development of the agri-business park (and has already been through the environmental review process).

Mountain said Phase I of the park is already nearly full and it's his understanding that Partridge has received offers on his land.

Currently, the only developed roadway into the park is from Route 5.

Alpina Products will hold a ribbon-cutting Monday for its new facility, which will initially employ 50 people.

Next year, the Muller Quaker plant, a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group, will open with an original staff requirement of about 200 people. A mushroom farm and labeling facility (already open) are also among the park's first announced tenants.

Initially, Phase 2 of the development was to extend the rail line into the park, but there's been no demand for it yet from potential tenants.

Among the benefits of the Route 62 access point is that O-AT-KA will be able to use the roadway for truck traffic to his own facility, making the intersection of Route 63 and Cedar Street safer.

A public hearing on the revised planning map is set for Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Batavia Town Hall. More details of the project will be revealed then.

August 20, 2012 - 2:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a federal grant worth $199,821 for a secondary access road at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The funding is allocated through the USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, and is being awarded after Senator Gillibrand toured the nearly finished Alpina Yogurt facility and called for more federal investments in infrastructure at the ag-park in Batavia.

“This is an important investment that can help attract more businesses to the Genesee Valley ag-park, and support more jobs right here,”Senator Gillibrand said.

“I know the potential the ag-park has to help local businesses grow and be a major economic driver for the region. Investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest, most effective ways to create new jobs now, and lay the foundation for more jobs to come.”

In September 2011, Senator Gillibrand helped secure an additional $58,000 from USDA Rural Development for initial infrastructure upgrades at the agri-business park, including expanding existing roads and utilities.

Senator Gillibrand also brought a USDA official to Batavia in April 2012 to tour the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and hear firsthand from local leaders about the need for federal investments to grow this critical industry for the region.

In addition to the USDA, Senator Gillibrand has been active in pushing for federal funds through the U.S. Economic Development Administration to complete infrastructure improvements at the ag-park.

The federal grant funding will be used to design, engineer and construct a secondary access road at the ag-park, a key component of a range of planned infrastructure improvements, including the construction on an aquifer that is required by food processors.

Muller Quaker Dairy, an international yogurt producer, and Alpina Foods would greatly benefit from the completion of the aquifer and would contribute to an increased investment in Genesee County.

Upon the completion of the infrastructural improvements to the Ag-Park, Muller Quaker Dairy would be able to complete a $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility that they expect could generate approximately 186 jobs in the near-term, with the ability to create up to 600 jobs in the long-term. Alpina also expects to be able to create approximately 50 new jobs as a result of finishing the construction.

August 14, 2012 - 1:47pm

Workers today are installing the first two silos at the new Alpina Products plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Batavia.

The first silo is 40 feet tall and will hold up to 20,000 gallons of raw milk. The second silo is half the height and will hold 12,000 gallons of whey.

More silos can be added as the capacity of the Greek yogurt plant increases.

More pictures after the jump (click on the headline to continue):

July 24, 2012 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

Today, Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a critical funding commitment for the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) through the Economic Development Administration (EDA), to complete essential infrastructure improvements at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park (GVAB) in Batavia.

In March of 2012, Schumer urged the EDA to support the ag park’s water system after the GGLDC applied for a $1 million investment from the EDA Public Works Program, which will go toward infrastructure improvements needed to support Muller-Quaker partners' -- Theo Muller Group and PepsiCo -- new $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility in the ag park.

Today, the EDA notified the GGLDC that the agency was granting it a $1 million preliminary award pending receipt of final supporting documents.

“This federal investment will mean more jobs and economic activity in Upstate New York, and more demand for our dairy farmers’ product. It is great news for the Genesee County’s Agri-Business Park that further solidifies Upstate New York’s place at the top of the rapidly expanding Greek yogurt production industry,” Schumer said.

“I urged the Economic Development Administration to support this project so that Genesee can pave the way for a major new water system at the Agri-Business Park in Batavia, helping to sprout hundreds of new jobs and Pepsi’s new Greek yogurt plant.

"The Agri-Business Park is going to be a huge driver of jobs and economic growth, and it’s clear that EDA agrees we need to make this investment to create jobs and new markets for our farms and dairies. The EDA made a smart choice and will get real bang for their buck with this investment.”

In March of 2012, Schumer wrote and personally called EDA Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Erskine to issue his support and noted that this investment would allow the ag park to construct an aquifer-direct water system, which is required for food processing and yogurt-product manufacturing.

The federal award will also help the project leverage millions in private-sector investments and will create approximately 186 jobs at the plant, all while providing a critical boost as Genesee County and Upstate New York work to keep pace with the lucrative and fast-growing yogurt production industry.

The GGLDC will use the $1 million, plus a local match, to construct an aquifer-direct water system required by food processors as municipal water is not optimal for the manufacturing process of yogurt products.

In addition to PepsiCo’s Muller-Quaker plant, the aquifer system will be utilized by other tenants at the park, such as yogurt product producer Alpina Foods. Alpina is in the process of constructing a 40,000-square-foot yogurt processing facility in the ag park and anticipates beginning production late this summer with the hiring of 50 new employees.

Schumer highlighted the fact that multiple economic development projects would be set to utilize this aquifer system once constructed, and noted that the project fits squarely in line with the administration’s focus on developing regional clusters of growth in specialized high-tech manufacturing.

This funding will help Genesee County close an over $1 million funding gap needed to upgrade the park’s road and sewer infrastructure to accommodate forthcoming new tenants like Muller-Quaker, Alpina, and Genesee Valley Mushroom.

In May, Schumer led the effort to secure $105,000 from the USDA to upgrade an essential pump station necessary to increase the park’s wastewater system’s capacity to support the park’s new tenants. To overcome the last of this funding gap, Schumer is also spearheading an effort to secure a $200,000 grant from USDA to construct the required secondary access road into the park. The USDA expects to announce winners of that grant within the next few weeks.

Earlier this year, Schumer urged Muller-Quaker partner PepsiCo, to source as much of the milk for their product as they can from New York’s dairy farmers. The new plant, to be built in Batavia, will create 186 jobs primarily around the manufacturing of various Greek yogurt products. Schumer noted that the plant will be the largest manufacturing operation to locate in Genesee County in the past 50 years.

Dairy processing has significantly increased, thanks to the opening of several new yogurt plants in the state, and the new Muller-Quaker plant represents the latest opportunity to increase demand for New York dairy products, a welcome boost for New York’s long-suffering dairy farmers.

The EDA Public Works Program provides funding for distressed communities to revitalize and upgrade physical infrastructure to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, and diversify local economies.

The Economic Adjustment Assistance Program helps address the needs of communities experiencing adverse economic changes that may occur suddenly or over time caused by international trade, long-term economic deterioration, loss of major community employer, or loss of manufacturing jobs. Funding can be used for infrastructure improvements like sewers.

July 4, 2012 - 12:08pm

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent some time in Western New York on Tuesday, including at least two stops in Batavia.

Gillibrand met with area Democratic leaders for lunch at Larry's Steakhouse and then toured the Alpina Products factory under construction at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The facility, which will produce Greek yogurt and other dairy products, is nearing completion and should open in late August or September.

Gillibrand said seeing what is happening at the ag park -- which includes construction of a dairy production facility across the road from Alpina by PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group -- is "really exciting."

"It's such an opportunity for agricultural growth in this region," Gillibrand said. "Not only is Greek yogurt production one of the fastest growing products in New York, but nationwide, and it's so well located with all of our dairies that are so close by. It makes business sense. Not only do we have a great workforce, but we have a great product, so it's going to be exciting to create these jobs, to have this industry grow in Western New York."

While there's been conflicting reports on whether New York dairies can produce enough milk to meet the demands of the new and existing Greek yogurt factories in the state, Gillibrand said she believes the dairies can meet the demand.

She said she has also introduced legislation to help New York's small dairies increase production without driving up their insurance costs.

Currently, if a small dairy wants to add a significant number of milk-producing cows, they're going to hit a cap on production imposed by insurance rules.

Gillibrand's legislation would remove the cap.

"That might give the ability of a small dairy to go up to 300 or 400 cows to meet the needs of their customers," Gillibrand said. "That would make a big difference for these projects."

Yogurt producers, Gillibrand said, don't want the expense of trucking in milk from other states to keep their production lines going and her legislation would keep the local milk flowing, she said, adding that there would be no regulatory burdens for small dairies to grow to meet local demand.

Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center, also introduced Gillibrand to the STAMP project -- the 1,300 acre high-tech/nano-tech park that has been in planning for five years.

The senator took quite an interest in the project. She noted that with New York's previous success in Luther Forest -- the nano-tech corridor developing between Buffalo and Albany -- the surrounding technology-oriented university system, and the investment already made in the project, STAMP has a good chance to attract major manufacturers.

It was a validation of how the community and region came together on the ag park to have Gillibrand in Batavia on Tuesday to tour the Alpina facility.

"It’s really kind of heartwarming because this ag park was really nine-and-a-half years in the making," Hyde said. "Once we found a way to get it all done, get it funded, get it built, having two very significant manufacturing projects land in our back yard – like we talked about today, talk about the multiplier effect, Alpina’s working with OA-T-KA, and Stueben Food and a company in Rochester on packaging -- it’s just really really awesome."

May 21, 2012 - 1:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

I stopped by the Ag Park this afternoon just to see how construction is coming along -- Haskell has made some visible progress on the Pepsi/Muller Project Wave plant.

I happened to be on hand when some bedrock was blasted from the ground.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this sign warns that only Pepsi products are allowed in the construction area.

For those keeping score, it look like a majority of the vehicles in the employee parking lot had New York license plates.

Meanwhile, most of the work for the new Alpina plant is now taking place inside the new building. Alpina is on schedule to start producing yogurt in Batavia some time in August.

I didn't get a picture, but the Marktec building is completed.

April 13, 2012 - 3:45pm

The Haskell Company, general contractor on Project Wave, and PepsiCo both pledged today to hire, whenever possible, local subcontractors, and say they've been following that practice from the beginning.

In fact, both companies say they have a non-binding agreement with the Genesee County Economic Development Center to hire local workers.

Union representatives from Rochester held a press conference today outside the building site at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and insisted that Haskell is not awarding enough contracts to builders from Western New York.

Dave Young, president of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as business manager of IBEW Local 86, told reporters to just walk through the parking lot (if allowed) and check license plates on the trucks pulled up behind the construction trailers.

"Pepsi has hired an out-of-state general contractor who is bringing up employees from Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia," Young said. "They're bringing them from everywhere but right in here New York State."

Young made his remarks flanked by union members -- Young said he represents 15,000 workers, 15 percent of whom are out of work -- and in front of a backdrop of earth movers grading the construction site.

The earth movers are owned and operated by Zoladz Construction, based in Alden.

Young (pictured) said the one solid piece of evidence his group has is a video he and some colleagues produced yesterday during their walk-through of the construction site parking lot.

When pressed to name out-of-state contractors who have been awarded contracts, Young named one, an electrical contractor out of Kentucky, but said he couldn't remember the names of the others.

He said the bid process for construction work such as this lacks transparency, which makes it hard to know for sure who is being hired for what jobs.

Yesterday, Steve Hyde told The Batavian that 50 percent of the contracts for the project have been awarded and 80 percent of those have gone to Western New York contractors.

Dave Balz, a VP with Haskell, said he didn't have the information in front of him to be able to confirm Hyde's numbers, but said Haskell is firmly committed to hiring local labor on all of its projects.

"In my experience, every community is concerned about the local work force and the local workers," Balz said. "We respect that concern. Local contractors with a good safety record are always welcome to bid on our projects."

Haskell signed a non-binding agreement with GCEDC to hire qualified subcontractors from the local area (which covers Genesee County as well as the surrounding counties), Balz said.

According to Scott Gilmore, a spokesman for Pepsi, the company signed a "local labor pledge" with GCEDC.

"Our pledge is to use a fair and competitive selection process for the construction of the new manufacturing facility, with a view to using as many New York State and local subcontractors and suppliers as reasonable," Gilmore said in a statement.

"As with any pledge of this nature, it is not legally binding, but it is a reflection of the goals and standards we seek to maintain as we proceed with development of the state-of-the-art dairy and yogurt production facility in Batavia, New York."

Gilmore also wrote, "We are committed to providing a measurable, positive impact to the Upstate local community and surrounding areas through the use of available, competitive local labor as we construct a state-of-the-art dairy and yogurt production facility in Batavia, New York."

Among Young's request is that GCEDC create a local labor requirement in its contacts with businesses, saying that the Monroe County IDA has such a requirement in its contracts.

The Batavian spoke briefly with a spokeswoman for COMIDA who said at first the claim was true, but when asked if such agreements were binding, she said she would need to double check. We've not yet heard back from her.

As for the video presented by the union, Balz said he would let it speak for itself, adding, "We are still early in a very long-term project to build a state-of-the-art yogurt plant. As things proceed on site, we intend and will take action on our pledge to do our very best to include local participation."

Previously: Union officials making waves over alleged out-of-state hiring practices of Wave Holding

April 12, 2012 - 9:05pm

Two giant multinational companies received millions in taxpayer subsidies to launch "Project Wave" in Batavia on the promise of creating local jobs and stimulating the local economy, but so far, according to Dave Young, it's not happening.

Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, disputed Young's claims saying that Wave Holding has made a committment to hire a majority of local construction workers and that as of last week, 50 percent of the contracts had been awarded with 80 percent going to local firms.

Young is a union man -- president of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as business manager of IBEW Local 86 -- and he will hold a press conference at 10 a.m., Friday, at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park to try to draw attention to the number of out-of-state workers being employed by Wave Holding, LLC.

"There are a lot of construction workers in our area who are out of work," Young said. "This isn't a union or non-union issue. It's a community issue."

Young and Anna Dumont, executive director, Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, released a pair of videos Dumont said were shot this morning at the job site of Project Wave showing numerous out-of-state license plates on what they say are the cars of construction workers employed by building contractor Haskell and its subcontractors.

We received no reply to an email this afternoon to PepsiCo asking for comment on the situation.

Pepsi along with Germany-based Theo Muller Group formed Wave Holding to introduce a new Greek-style yogurt product to the United States and are spending more than $206 million to build a 363,000-square-foot facility.

The plant will initially employ nearly 200 people and could eventually employ as many as 600 people.

Wave Holding received more than $11 million in tax abatements for the project and the GCEDC has been able to channel millions more into building the ag park and ensuring the park has sufficient infrastructure to support operations there.

Young suggested GCEDC should adopt rules similar to those he claims are already in place in Monroe County -- if you get tax breaks for your project, you need to hire local workers.

"That's true of all IDA subsidized projects in Monroe County," Young said. "Some go union and some go non-union, but either way people in our community get to go to work every day. They earn paychecks that support their families. This is truly a community issue."

Hyde, who answered a couple of questions even though he's out of town on vacation, said the GCEDC supports local labor.

"We have done everything we can to encourage local labor and are a huge fan and advocate of local labor," Hyde said. "We have done so with Wave many times."

Young claimed the unemployment rate among construction workers in Western New York is about double the rate of the rest of the work force.

The problem with out-of-state workers (and Young thinks some of the workers at the site aren't even U.S. residents) is that they send their wages back home rather than spend the money here.

Studies, he said, put the multiplier effect of locally based construction work at three to seven times the worker's wages.

"They're paying taxes, going to local stores, getting things fixed locally, sending their kids to local schools and colleges," Young said.

Young said he hopes public attention on the matter will get Haskell to hire more local workers.

Meanwhile, throughout the construction of the Alpina yogurt plant, the parking lot -- including today -- has been consistently filled with vehicles with New York license plates.

March 13, 2012 - 5:18pm

PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group -- partnering on Project Wave in Batavia -- will receive more than $11 million in tax relief for the planned yogurt plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The incentive package was approved by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board on Monday.

The PILOT on the project -- relief from taxes on the increased value of the assessment -- is 100 percent for the first six years and 50 percent in years seven through 10.

The total PILOT abatement is estimated at $5.6 million over 10 years.

The companies will also receive $5.4 million in sales tax abatement on materials and supplies for construction of the facility.

The project will add 186 new jobs to the local economy, and early planning for the plant projected as many as 600 jobs by 2033.

Wave Holding, LLC (the company formed by Pepsi and Muller for the project) will spend $206 million on construction of a 363,000-square-foot facility.

Construction on the project began in November.

The agreement calls for the first 186 jobs to be filled within three years of Wave Holding receiving a certificate of occupancy.

GCEDC competed with shovel-ready sites in Avon and Pennsylvania.

According to a GCEDC press release, for every $1 invested by Waving Holding the local economy will benefit by $14.47.

February 3, 2012 - 2:08pm

The county is scheduled to receive a $7,200 grant to help fund training for potential food-processing workers, as part of the Finger Lakes Food Processing Cluster Initiative.

The grant will likely assist Genesee Community College in developing food-training classes, said Scott Gage, director of the Job Development Center, and comes at a good time, with companies like Alpina opening factories in Batavia, along with existing businesses such as Yancey's Fancy in Corfu.

"Workers need to learn manufacturing techniques, process control, and health and safety issues," Gage said. "We’re seeing this as a tool to help us with these new businesses moving into the town."

Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said there is an effort going forward from government agencies, schools and food-processing companies themselves to create a better trained work force for these types of businesses.

He said developing such tech-based job-training programs (and food processing is now a tech-based job) is hugely important for the region.

"We are better aligning education with industry needs," Hyde said. "If you really start being able to deliver (a better trained work force), boy, you are at a key strategic advantage (for attracting new businesses to the area)."

January 26, 2012 - 9:27am

We've heard for some time that while PepsiCo is paying for grading for a possible construction of a food processing plant in Batavia, the same work is "being done in three other locations."

One of those locations is in Avon, and as WHAM13's Sean Carroll discovered yesterday, no site work is taking place in Avon at all.

At the same time, however, the economic development directer in Livingston County says the site is much closer to being "shovel ready" than the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. His park, he said, doesn't need a USDA grant for sewer and water because it already has all the infrastructure in place.

"If they chose this site, and we made it very clear, literally they could plug in and all the utilities are in the ground and there's no infrastructure needed here or at the sewage treatment plant," Rountree explained

While Genesee County clearly has the lead in the race to land the project, Livingstone County isn't giving up.

The support of a U.S. Senator and the fact that dirt is actually being moved at the Batavia site appears to indicate Project Wave’s final destination may only be a formality at this point in the process. Yet Rountree and his team are staying optimistic after an aggressive pitch that included top representatives from Barilla.

Either way, regional dairy farmers will be pleased with either outcome.

"I think for the dairy industry in this area specifically it spells a good feeling about long-term stability," Coyne explained. "To have end-product manufacturing this close, it just adds to the confidence that we can invest in our own farms long-term and be able to be in business."

The other two supposedly competitive sites are in Pennsylvania. A contractor familiar with the project told me some time ago that those sites are graded and have infrastructure in place, but we currently have no way to confirm that assertion.

January 23, 2012 - 11:41pm

Top executives from Alpina Products were in Batavia on Monday touring the site of their future Greek yogurt plant in the Genesee Agri-Business Park, and they heard from Jim Billington, project manager, that construction is right on schedule.

A mild winter has certainly helped, Billington said.

"We've been pouring concrete every day, and according to some of the locals, that's quite unusual," Billington said. "We've been trying to take advantage of that."

CEO Julian Jaramillo (top photo, left) was all smiles during the tour and nodded enthusiastically when Managing Director Carlos Ramirez (top photo, right) said they consider it a good sign that Project Wave is under construction (The Batavian has previously reported Project Wave appears to be the work of PepsiCo).

"It says we made a good decision in coming here," Ramirez said.

He added that with the milk supply, the transportation, the labor pool and now the chance to be in a location with a complimentary business will only benefit Alpina and could lead other yogurt makers to come to the same conclusion.

"I think developing a yogurt cluster is a really good idea – the Silicon Valley of yogurt," Ramirez said.

With Jaramillo and Ramierz was Alpina' Colombia General Manager Ivan Lopez, who was seeing the location for the first time.

"It’s going to be great," Lopez said. "We have a huge operation in Colombia and when I see this, we can see the future in United States. I think we can do good things here, just like in Colombia."

The 40,000-square-foot plant should open in early spring and initially employ 50 people, with the first shipment of product going out in June.

Ramirez said Alpina remains excited about the opportunity to sell Greek yogurt in the United States.

"It’s one of the few categories where America is an emerging marketing," Ramirez said. "It's grown like crazy over the past three or four years and we think there is still room to grow."

For previous Alpina coverage, click here.

January 12, 2012 - 7:34pm

The possible "yogurt cluster" in Batavia is part of a statewide trend in the manufacture and distribution of Greek yogurt, according to a story just published by the The New York Times.

Alpina Foods, the United States arm of a major South American dairy company, is building a $20 million plant in Batavia to make Greek yogurt topped with granola. And state economic development officials are negotiating with another major food maker to set up a dairy products plant in the same area, creating the possibility for what one executive called a “yogurt cluster.”

Of course, readers of The Batavian (and no other local source in this case) know the "major food maker" is PepsiCo.

However, I spoke to some dairy product insiders recently who don't believe yogurt is what PepsiCo is planning. They said they expect Pepsi to announce a dairy-based nutrition drink.

More from the Times:

National retail sales of the thicker style of yogurt more than doubled last year, jumping to $821 million for a 52-week period ending in October ...

New York’s dairy farmers are among the biggest beneficiaries of the public’s love affair with Greek yogurt, since it typically takes three times as much milk to make a pound of Greek yogurt as it does for regular yogurt. “This is a ‘once every two or three generations’ situation,” said Bruce Krupke, executive vice president of the Northeast Dairy Foods Association. “All of the right forces have come together to make it very attractive to build in New York state.”

Data compiled by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets shows that the state produced 368 million pounds of yogurt in 2010, nearly 40 percent more than the previous year. Over five years, production rose almost 60 percent. Much of that increase is for Greek yogurt production. ...

The Greek yogurt boom has translated into jobs in rural areas of New York that badly need them. Chobani (a brand of Greek yogurt) said it currently employed about 900 people in New York and expected to add about 100 more. Fage said it had about 240 full-time employees and expected to add about 150. The new Alpina plant in Batavia will employ about 50 people.

We're still in a wait-and-see mode about Pepsi and how the rest of the ag park will fill out, but this was some interesting information from the NYT.

Read the whole article here.

November 23, 2011 - 2:32pm

Project Wave -- which we now know is being pursued by PepsiCo -- will be the largest yogurt plant in North America, according to an industry expert with more than 15 years in the field.

Jeff Stephen, a consultant with Productive Partners, said in an interview today that what Pepsi is planning is impressive and will be a huge benefit to the community and the local dairy industry.

"Pepsi isn't the kind of company that is going to go anywhere," Stephen said. "They're not going to cut back because of any shortage of money. This is everything you could ask for in a local community. They are going to be successful. Not everything will go to plan, but they will succeed. This is a major global commitment."

Based on industry reports, Pepsi wants to get into the yogurt business. The multinational firm is planning a merger of sorts with Theo Muller Group, a German company that makes seven different yogurt products.

Stephen said companies for years have been trying to crack the U.S. yogurt market in the belief that American consumers don't buy as much yogurt as they should. Europeans consume five or six times as much yogurt as Americans, Stephen said.

The key to the U.S. yogurt market, Stephen said, is to make yogurt with more body and texture, a yogurt that can be consumed as a meal or a key ingredient in a meal. Growth in the U.S. yogurt market has been thwarted, Stephen said, because too much of the product available in the U.S. is what Stephen called "crappy dessert yogurt."

The key to the U.S. market is Greek yogurt, which has more flavor, is more filling and has greater nutritional value.

That's the kind of yogurt that will be the basis of Alpina's product line. Alpina was the first big signing for Genesee County Economic Development Center in the new ag park. Alpina is building an initially 10,000-square-foot facility that will employ 50 people.

Pepsi's plans begin with a 300,000-square-foot facility that will employ 180 people, with a build out by 2033 of 16 production lines and 600 employees.

There is no yogurt plant in North America that's close to that size, Stephen said.

When Stephen saw what was being planned for Project Wave, as first reported on The Batavian, he figured Pepsi, whose plans with Theo Muller had already been reported by the Wall Street Journal, was a likely prospect for the property. A project of that size would almost certainly be a plant for a large corporation moving into a new product line. 

The deal bringing Pepsi to Batavia hasn't been signed yet, but construction has begun on the facility and Pepsi is clearly eager to get its new product to market by 2013.

Stephen just hopes Pepsi is planning a yogurt line based on Greek yogurt and not "crappy dessert yogurt," which he doesn't think will help Pepsi or other yogurt makers expand the U.S. market.

Whatever Pepsi does, he doesn't see the Pepsi products competing directly with Alpina, which will be producing a slightly higher end yogurt and going after niche markets.

Pepsi's main competitors will be Dannon and Yoplait.

Dannon, based in White Planes, is a pure dairy company and between its two main brands, controls about 38 percent of the yogurt market. Yoplait, owned by General Mills, has another 6 percent. The rest of the market is shared by regional players and store brands, some of which, Stephen said, are very good.

Another potential local player in the yogurt market is O-AT-KA Milk Products, which is owned by Upstate Niagara Cooperative. 

The rumor is that a current expansion at O-AT-KA is for the local plant to start making yogurt ingredients.

It's unknown who the ingredients will be sold to, but Upstate purchased a 100-year-old, one-line yogurt plant in Watertown about a year ago.

Charitably, Stephen said, the Watertown plant is "historic," but it shows Upstate's intention to move into the yogurt business.

Whatever product Pepsi brings to market, Stephen said, will be thoroughly researched and well marketed.

"I have very high respect for Pepsi," Stephen said. "They are efficient in manufacturing and production and very good marketers. They are not the kind of company that gives up."

It's unknown whether Pepsi will purchase its dairy products through O-AT-KA or directly from farmers (those are discussions that probably haven't even taken place yet, Stephen said), but as for farmers, Stephen said they will be happy working with Pepsi.

Pepsi, he said, takes an approach that being easy to work with helps lower costs.

"I think the farmers will want to do business with them," he said.

As for milk supply, the market will probably be shaken up for awhile initially, but the big farmers have little trouble adding capacity (more cows) and there should be an ample milk supply in Western New York to meet the needs of Pepsi, Alpina and O-AT-KA, and any other players that enter the market at the ag park.

Perhaps the worst news for other dairy businesses, Stephen said, is that if Pepsi wants to hire an employee, they will hire that employee. They will spend what it takes, he said, to get the best employees, especially in key positions.

But it's a great pool of employees that is attracting Pepsi to Batavia, Stephen said.

For years, he's been telling dairy companies to stop manufacturing in places like Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia because the standard of living is so much better in smaller communities.

Employees can actually afford to buy a house in a place like Batavia. That isn't true in larger population centers. And, Stephen said, the schools are good, and that's attractive to a major employer.

"You have a pretty high quality of life," Stephen said. "It's a pretty attractive place to put people who are going to work for you for a long time."

November 18, 2011 - 2:46pm

I went out to the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park this morning to meet WHAM13's Sean Carroll and the amount of progress that has been made by construction crews since Tuesday was noticeable.

It was impressive seeing more than a half-dozen pieces of heavy machinery moving around the 81-acre parcel at breakneck speed. There is a clear sense of urgency to complete phase one of construction before the worst of winter sets in.

And seeing the sewer lines being installed felt like another piece of the puzzle falling into place. The Cedar Street sewer line connecting Main Street and the ag park was only finished last week.

PepsiCo started construction as soon as the sewer line project was complete, even though not too many major construction projects in WNY begin in the middle of November. Somebody is pretty serious about being ready to begin physical plant construction in the spring.

Carroll's report tonight on Rochester's Channel 13 will be not just about Project Wave, but the scope of the uptick in activity at the ag park and what it means for Genesee County.

November 16, 2011 - 4:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

A pair of top executives from the company behind a development in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia were on hand this morning to see the first of several tons of dirt get moved from one spot to another.

Even without a purchase agreement to buy the 81-acre parcel from GCEDC, the company is apparently eager to get this project under way immediately to meet a deadline for product production of early 2013.

The company wants site grading completed before the worst of winter hits.

While the executives did not want to be identified in publication, sources in the dairy industry have fingered PepsiCo as the company likely behind "Project Wave."

It makes sense.

According to a story in the Oct. 14 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Pepsi is embarking on a partnership with a yogurt company based in Germany in an effort to enter the fast-growing yogurt market in the United States.

This would be Pepsi's first foray into the U.S. dairy business, but fits an overall strategy laid out in the business press for Pepsi to grow market share in nutritional foods as the market for soft drinks declines.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based firm that has led Project Wave through the regulatory process and start of construction is Haskell Architects and Engineers. On its website, Haskell lists PepsiCo as among its clients.

While the executives at the construction site this morning asked that their names not be published, an internet search of one of the executive's names confirmed he is an employee of PepsiCo.

The executive made it clear, however, that Batavia is only one site among four under consideration and his employer hasn't made a final decision on which site it will construct its plant.

It is, however, the site that is being bulldozed. And the company seems eager, and has big plans, to enter the U.S. yogurt market by 2013.

According to Project Wave specs, the plant will eventually employ 600 people working three different shifts on 16 production lines.

Assuming it opens on schedule in 2013, the plant will initially employ 180 people working on three production lines.

Both executives praised GCEDC and the Town of Batavia for having this shovel ready site available.

"There are only three of our four sites in the northeast that would be ready this quickly for production," one executive said. "These shovel-ready projects are key to attracting big companies."

Mike Wheeler, the project's architect, was also on site this morning and reiterated the importance of having all of the regulatory approvals in place, along with the infrastructure necessary for the project to get started right away.

"My hats off to these guys," Wheeler said. "They put the community in the best possible position for this project."

November 15, 2011 - 11:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

When an as-yet-unnamed company breaks ground on a development project Wednesday morning, it could mean as many as 600 new jobs in Batavia some day, and it will mark the end of a 15-day sprint to get the project pushed through the local and state regulatory process.

At the end of Tuesday's Town of Batavia Planning Board meeting, where a site plan and a change in the parcel map were approved, Chris Souzzi, VP of business development for GCEDC, said the swiftness of the approval process proves why shovel-ready business parks are so important.

"We can see now why we need these parks," Souzzi said. "Here we have a company that wants to build this fast, and in 15 days, you (the planning board) just approved a site plan. That's huge and that's why they're here."

Michael Wheeler, representing "Project Wave," as the secretive food-processing development is known, said the fact that the nine-month-long environmental review process had already been completed for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, plus the review was a spot-on match for the kind of site contemplated in Project Wave, were huge factors in the client picking Batavia.

That said, not much is in writing yet.

The company has yet to close escrow on the 81-acre parcel and land in Avon and two already graded parcels in Pennsylvania are still, at least marginally, in the running for the big plant.

And the plant is big. In phase one, it will exceed 300,000 square feet, and if built out fully will have a 120-foot high cold storage tower (modeled after a similar automated storage tower owned by Wegmans near the airport in Rochester).

On day one, if it opens on schedule in January or February of 2013, the facility will employ 180 people and operate three production lines. At full build-out, the plant will employ 600 people on 16 production lines, all working in three daily shifts.

Grading and foundation preparation work begins at Wednesday morning and the unnamed company wants to see work completed by the end of December, according to Wheeler.

"At that point, it just gets so miserably cold up here that us Southerners can’t work any more," said Wheeler, who lives in Florida.

The company isn't scheduled to take possession of the property until the fall of 2012, when it will start moving in its production equipment.

UPDATED to add a picture I forgot to post last night of Mike Wheeler, left, and Paul Marchese.

November 2, 2011 - 5:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

A Canadian company is finally able to proceed with plans to build a mushroom farm at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The company, known for the project as Genesee Valley Mushrooms, Inc., (GVM) was originally considered the first business to commit to the ag park back in 2008, but the deal stalled.

GVM will purchase 10 acres in the park and employ 100 people.

In the ag park, GVM will build a 70,000-square-foot growing facility. It's also planning a 37,000-square-foot facility for substrate, the material for growing mushrooms, off Wortendyke Road in Batavia. That substrate facility could use, among other material, the byproduct (manure) of Batavia Downs.

The company is expected to spend more $20 million on construction of the facilities.

Genesee County's Ways and Means Committee approved a grant application resolution to receive funding for the project from the state. The exact amount of the grant has not been determined.

The grant application needs to come from the county government.

Mark Masse, a VP with GCEDC, said the facility will be the first mushroom growing facility in the state. Grocery stores throughout New York will be able to market the mushrooms as locally grown.

With an unnamed business near closing on an 81-acre parcel, plus Marktec, the GVM project, and Alpina combined with Alpina's first-right-of-refusal on another 10 acres in the park, the 200-acre ag park is nearly half sold.

The park could fill up quickly, Masse said.

"We have more companies in the pipeline than available acreage at the park," Masse said.

November 2, 2011 - 3:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

WHAM-13's Sean Carroll is working on a follow-up to our stories on a possible giant food processing plant targeted for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and had an opportunity to ask Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy about the plans today.

Here's the exchange:

Sean Carroll: "Genesee County Ag Park is one of a couple locations in this region being eyed-up by possibly a food processing company, 200 to 300 jobs, what do you know about it and what can you tell us about it?”

Duffy: “Well, I know one thing, on one of the worst weather days of the year I was out at a meeting in Genesee County on that location. I know the state is working very hard with Genesee County right now. I don't want to negotiate or talk about the details of that discussion right now but we're working very, very hard on that and hopefully it will come to fruition."

Carroll has spoken with state-level officials who confirmed the details of what we've been able to report so far.

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