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Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park

July 15, 2017 - 9:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in HP Hood, batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Public Notice:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the Genesee County Legislature will hold a public hearing on the submission of an application for Community Development Block Grant funding from the New York State Office of Community Renewal to provide financing to assist in the establishment of milk processing operations at the former Muller Quaker Dairy facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in the Town of Batavia, New York by HP Hood LLC.  More detailed information regarding the project will be presented at the hearing.

NOTICE IS FURTHER GIVEN that the public hearing will be held at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main Street, Batavia, NY on the 19th day of July, 2017 at 5:30 PM. All persons who wish to speak will be heard. Written comments are invited and will be accepted upon delivery to: Clerk, Genesee County Legislature, 7 Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020 prior to the hearing. The hearing location is in compliance with accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

June 9, 2017 - 4:45pm

One of New England's largest dairy producers, HP Hood, with an increasing reach into New York, is acquiring the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia.

The plant has been vacant, except for a few maintenance workers, since Theo Muller Group and PepsiCo dissolved their yogurt-making partnership in December 2015. A month later, Dairy Farmers of America, a dairy farmers cooperative, purchased the 363,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art milk processing facility for $60 million.

Since then, DFA has been mum about its plans for the plant, and for 2017, the company wound up paying all of the property taxes due on the two parcels, more than $650,000, because they were not meeting the employment obligations of the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement Muller Quaker received for the project.

Rumors have started circulating weeks ago that DFA planned to sell the plant to a large dairy producer.

Public documents released by the Genesee County Economic Development Center in advance of a meeting next week where new tax incentives will be considered indicate that Hood is the buyer. It is a 170-year-old company that does more than $2 billion in business annually, and is based in Lynnfield, Mass..

Hood is a subsidiary of Catamount Companies. The owner and CEO is John A. Kaneb, who is also a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox.

News of Hood's purchase is good news to local dairy farmers. Both Shelly Stein of Stein Farms and Dean Norton, former NY Farm Bureau president and owner of a dairy farm in Elba, said anything that creates more demand for local milk helps all farmers.

"Anything that can go into that plant and help with the oversupply of raw milk that we have in the Northeast right now, that would be good," Norton said.

Norton said he has met Kaneb a couple of times.

"He's a good guy and it's a pretty solid company," Norton said.

Bill Baskin, owner of Baskin Livestock in Bethany, got his start in the dairy business in Massachusetts, so he is very familiar with Hood and said it's a good, old, old, old company with deep roots in Boston.

The funny story, he said, is that his great uncles had a 700- or 800-cow dairy farm back in the 1940s and they didn't like the price they were getting from Hood for milk, so they started their own bottling plant, which years later they sold.

Both Stein and Norton are DFA members. Norton said he doesn't know, but he would expect that DFA will become the supplier of milk for Hood's operations.

Monica Massey, senior vice president and chief of staff for DFA, said she could not confirm the transaction with Hood.

"We are getting close to finalizing an agreement," she said.

Massey said DFA acquired the plant as a "strategic opportunity" because the region is an important and underserved milk shed.

Asked if DFA would supply milk to Hood, Massey said, "We acquired the facility because we thought it would benefit our member-owners." That is still the goal, she added.

Hood's purchase price for the former Muller Quaker plant has not been released, but GCEDC documents indicate that Hood plans to add another 100,000 square feet to the plant, which is already considered the largest in the United States, for a warehouse.

How much that additional investment will cost is not disclosed in the documents.

While Muller Quaker topped out at 162 jobs created, Hood promises 250 jobs at the plant, with an average annual salary of $47,000.

Hood plans to begin construction this summer and be operational by the first quarter of 2019.

Construction will create 524 jobs with a payroll of nearly $26 million.

The original cost of construction for the plant was $206 million, which is the cost of capital investment still tracked by GCEDC for its accounting purposes.

The GCEDC board will be asked to consider reinstating the PILOT, which will provide Hood with more than $7 million in tax abatements over 10 years, with an anticipated total economic benefit to the region of more than $330 million.

Hood has been expanding into New York and other parts of the United States over the past few years. In 2004, the company acquired Crowley Foods, based in Binghamton. It's also acquired dairy companies in Minnesota and Sacramento, Calif.

Eric Zuber, a local dairy farmer and VP of Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative, said he hasn't heard what Hood plans to do with the plant, but like Stein and Norton, he believes anything that will "soak up some of the milk supply" is a good thing.

"There sure is a lot of milk around right now," he said. "A little more capacity with the right thing is a good thing. We need more processing capacity. I don't care where it comes from."

Hood and Kaneb, he said, have a good reputation in the dairy industry.

"He’s done a fantastic job with (Hood)," Zuber said. "They know how to manage a milk plant. Whatever they decided to do, I'm sure it's going to be first class."

May 19, 2017 - 1:00pm

There should be no lack of motivation for Dairy Farmers of America to start production back up at the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in Batavia it acquired in January 2016 for $60 million.

That was a big outlay on a plant that is considered state-of-the-art, is USDA certified, close to milk supplies, in the midst of a transportation hub, and cost PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group more than $200 million to construct.

There is also more milk being produced than there are places to process it in the Northeast and that has led to some milk dumping so it doesn't get added to the market supply.

Finally, there is the whopping $655,155 tax bill DFA paid in 2017 over and above what their obligation could have been with a new PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreement, which is wholly contingent on Kansas City, Kansas-based DFA putting the plant to productive use.

Genesee County Economic Development Center CEO Steve Hyde notified officials with City Schools, Genesee County and the Town of Batavia in January that those jurisdictions could expect suspension of the PILOT agreement Muller Quaker received to build the plant because there was no clear indication what DFA planned to do to live up the basic premise of the PILOT, which is that there would be people working at the plant.

"They will pay full taxes until it's back in productive use and people are back to work," Hyde told The Batavian. "DFA has been good with us and good to work with, but we want to see the plant back in productive use, and they want their members to be able to ship milk to that plant."

The Batavian obtained copies of the letters sent to local officials through a FOIL (Freedom of Infomation Act letter) request. The letters show that City Schools received an extra $427,397, the county received $180,476, and the Town received $47,282.

Hyde said the payment requirement was consistent with the original terms of the PILOT and would not have come as a surprise to DFA.

As for DFA's plans, spokeswoman Kim O'Brien said the plans are taking shape. It's a lot of work to bring a number of big players together to get a plant like this back into production, but she said DFA would announce its plans within weeks.

It's unclear if DFA will operate the plant itself, partner with other companies, lease it or sell it, and O'Brien said she couldn't comment beyond acknowledging that DFA would make an announcement soon.

There are reportedly other major players in the dairy industry interested in the plant and Shelly Stein, a co-owner of Stein Farms in Le Roy, a DFA member, said it's common knowledge that DFA has had the plant on the market, but she also doesn't know what DFA's plans are. She said she's just eager to see it processing milk again to help alleviate the oversupply problem for dairy farmers.

"In the dairy business, there are a lot of partnerships and relationships that go into running plants like this, and that's the model DFA uses," Stein said. "I believe that is still the thought process and as a member of the cooperative, I look forward to that plant being up and running, but at this point, all of the stars have to line up. The size of that plant means it's not going to be an overnight fix."

Sarah Noble Moag, of Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, and also a DFA member, said they are eager to see the plant reopen, but they also understand why it's taking so long to get something going.

"After having seen Muller Quaker come in with its business plan and fail, we want to see something for our local economy and our local jobs that is more stable, and if that takes a little more time to plan, then so be it," Noble Moag said. "We all know in this business how long those negotiations can take, especially for an asset that size."

According to documents obtained by The Batavian as part of a FOIL request, there was active communication between GCEDC and DFA, but in July, the communication, at least the written communication, abruptly stopped. We are told that's an accurate reflection of the state of things from that point forward, that there isn't any communication not part of the response to the FOIL request.

In February of 2016, DFA officials were diligent about making sure its logo was added to the business part sign along Route 5. In March, Chris Suozzi, VP of business development, started trying to find out from DFA officials what their plans were so he could put together a new incentive package that recognized the expense of the retooling of the plant.

Jackie Klippenstein, with DFA, asked for clarification on possible incentives on April 28, telling Suozzi, "it appears discussions at the end of the hall are intensifying."

In response, Suozzi wanted to know how much DFA was planning to invest in the plant. 

The number he got back was $250,000 for equipment and $100,000, rough estimate, for labor.

On April 29, 2016, he emailed Jackie Klippenstein to try and clarify DFA's plans.

"Based on other food processing facilities in our county, that number appears low, unless you're making yogurt," Suozzi wrote. "Can you share what products will be produced? Maybe I can understand better. Will you be using existing equipment from Muller Quaker Dairy? Do you already own equipment that you're bringing in? If so we will need to understand the capital expense."

He also asked, "is the 150 jobs to start or is a ramp-up schedule over the course of time (i.e. 2-year ramp up)?"

Suozzi apparently didn't get a response and followed up on May 3 and suggested a phone call.

Klippenstein responded May 10 and said, "We aren't quite ready -- but I expect information in the next 2-3 weeks. Stop and go, stop and go ... sorry but feeling optimistic."

Suozzi again followed up on June 1, 2016, and Klippenstein responded, "Thanks for checking in. I've been told July is the golden month when things will start to come together -- decisions made."

On July 6, 2016, Suozzi again requested a project update and the documents obtained by The Batavian, which we are told are complete, contains no response from Klippenstein or anybody else from DFA.

As part of the documents obtained by The Batavian, there is a state form DFA was required to fill out which lists employees and wages paid for 2016. The NYS-45-ATT shows DFA had seven employees at the plant with a total payroll of $408,006. The names of the employees are redacted, but the top gross pay was $72,195, with one other employee earning more than $70,000, two making more than $50,000, one making $41,883, and three earning at least $35,000. Their job duties are not listed as part of the form.

Hyde, like other officials we've talked to around the county, remains optimistic that the plant, so big, so well situated and well suited to dairy processing, will eventually be put to productive use. It's just a matter of time.

"It's not perfect what happened, but we have a couple hundred million dollar processing plant that is essentially new and largely funded on the backs of PepsiCo and Theo Muller," Hyde said. "We'll eventually have a production facility in there. It's a great asset to have in our community."

Stein, who is also a county legislator, agreed.

"It’s an asset that continues that get a lot of traction," Stein said. "I’m glad it’s in DFA’s hands. It’s the largest dairy cooperative in the nation. As a member, when a deal is worked out, whomever or whatever it’s going to be, it's going to be good for all milk producers in the area one way or another because it’s still milk."

May 6, 2016 - 9:56am

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved a final resolution for an application for assistance from Alpina Foods, Inc., at its May 5 board meeting.

Alpina Foods, Inc., will add 3,200 square feet to its existing facility in the Town of Batavia to accommodate space for a bottle-filling machine and packaging equipment for a new drinkable yogurt product.

The facility’s expansion will result in the creation of four new jobs and the retention of 23 current full-time employees. Based on the success of the product line and other growth opportunities there is the potential for the creation of additional new jobs at Alpina.

The company was approved for a sales tax exemption of $15,405 and a property tax exemption of $62,903. The project’s planned capital investment will total an estimated $1.1 million.

“It is exciting to see Alpina adding a new yogurt product to the marketplace that is being made right here in Genesee County,” said Christopher Suozzi, vice president of Business Development at the GCEDC.

“The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is an important community asset and continued investment and expansion there will only help us market the site to other food processing and food manufacturing companies.”

May 3, 2016 - 8:26am

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider an expansion project for Alpina Foods, Inc., at its May 5 board meeting.

Alpina Foods, Inc., is planning to construct a 3,200-square-foot addition to its existing facility in Batavia to accommodate space for a new bottle-filling machine and packaging equipment for a new drinkable yogurt product.

The company’s investment will total more than $1.1 million in the drinkable yogurt line, resulting in the retention of 23 current full-time employees.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Innovation Zone Conference Room at MedTech Centre -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the first floor, across from Genesee Community College.

January 15, 2016 - 11:07am

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) at its Jan. 14 board meeting authorized the transfer of a PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreement to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) as a result of the sale of the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in Batavia. The PILOT agreement will be in effect for the remainder of 2016.

A key provision of the PILOT that will be transferred to DFA is a $300,000 payment from DFA for water and waste water/sewer infrastructure sustainability to the town of Batavia and the assumption of fire district fees.

“We are extremely pleased that Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to purchase the manufacturing facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park,” said Paul Battaglia, chairman of the Board of Directors of the GCEDC. “I think it shows that DFA is a company with a great deal of integrity as well as a commitment to our community.”

“This is another great example of how all of our public and private partners in the economic growth and sustainability model we embraced over the last 10 years continue to excel in making sure our taxpayers and water/sewer customers are well served and able to rely on stable rates in the face of unpredictable events,” said Gregory H. Post, supervisor of the Town of Batavia.

“The efforts made on behalf of the Town of Batavia and the region by Steve Hyde and the staff at GCEDC and the extraordinary investment in our Town by DFA during the transfer of PILOT agreement allow us to continue to offer and provide the infrastructure and support necessary to efficiently serve our community’s ever growing needs. We stand ready, willing and able to assist the new owners and offer thanks to all involved in this negotiation.”

It is expected that within the next few months that DFA will present its plans for operating the manufacturing facility and submit its own application for assistance at the appropriate time.

“We expect many, if not all of the jobs lost from the plant’s closure last month to be restored, but that is going to take some time as DFA prepares its plans,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC. “We remain committed to assisting the DFA in this transition to ensure the plant will continue operations as one of the region’s largest agricultural food production facilities, as well as serve as a major economic driver in the region.”

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national dairy marketing cooperative that serves and is owned by more than 14,000 members on more than 8,000 farms in 48 states. DFA is also one of the county’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients and is a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products.

December 10, 2015 - 3:53pm

Muller Quaker Dairy apparently announced the closing of its Batavia yogurt plant today.  We have not been able to confirm that announcement with the spokeswomen for Muller Quaker.

GCEDC issued this statement a few minutes ago.

“While we are extremely disappointed about today’s announcement by Mueller Quaker Dairy, we are optimistic that the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will continue to play a key role in the agricultural sector in our region, including remaining a major employer.

“The Genesee Agri-Business Park where the facility is located is a community asset and it continues our strategy of building and marketing sites targeting industry clusters. 

“Regardless of this announcement, we will continue to enhance the infrastructure at the Ag-Park in our efforts to bring new jobs and investment to Genesee County in the agricultural sector.

“Our immediate focus in the meantime is to do everything we can to assist the impacted employees.”

May 15, 2015 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, GCEDC, business, batavia.

gcplanningboardmay142015-3.jpg

The backers of a proposed bio-gas plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park are in the early stages of site planning and they hope, if all goes to plan, to be operational in a year.

The plan was presented for review Thursday night to the Genesee County Planning Board and the board unanimously recommended approval at this stage of the process.

The plant would take organic waste from food processing plants -- primarily the two yogurt plants in the ag park -- and convert it into methane to generate heat that could be resold to the plants and electricity that the plants could also purchase.

The plant would generate more electricity than the plants could use -- enough to power 800 homes a day -- so additional capacity would be transferred into the electrical grid.

The plant, said architect Robert Keiffer, of TY Lin International, Rochester, is environmentally friendly, would help make the yogurt plants more sustainable and more efficient to operate, and help attract business to the ag park.

The owners of the plant would be CH4 Biogas, which already operates a plant in Covington.

CH4 has a purchase agreement with Genesee County Economic Development Center for five acres in the ag park. The project would be eligible for economic incentives from GCEDC.

The proposed facility would be 8,500 square feet, housing processing equipment, an office, bathroom, dock area and de-packaging area.

The waste accepted by the facility would be organic and non-hazardous. The waste would go through a methane-capture process, pumped into a grinder and put into a receiving tank.

The waste is then pasteurized in three 15-foot-high tanks. This optimizes methane release. Next, the waste is moved to digester tanks that are completely enclosed. Methane is collected and stored in another tank. It is then converted into electricity by a CHP engine. The engine is not located on site, but at the thermal end-user's location and enclosed to reduce noise.

The organic waste, if not sent to a digester plant, could be used on farm fields or simply taken to a dump. In either case, the methane eventually released by the waste would drift into the atmosphere. Methane is considered a greenhouse gas. This process captures 100 percent of the methane from the waste and converts it to electricity.

December 11, 2014 - 11:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The Cuomo administration is handing out more than $1.8 million in grants to Genesee County projects, officials announced today.

The awards are part of $80.7 million in grants for the Finger Lakes Region of Empire State Development.

The largest award locally -- $1.5 million -- is going to Genesee Biogas, a Warsaw-based company looking to build a biogas generator in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Sen. Charles Schumer issued the following statement about the award:

“I was pleased to help make Ch4 Biogas’ first on-farm biodigester at the Synergy Dairy in Wyoming County a reality back in 2011, and I was pleased this year to support their application to ESD to replicate that success with the new Biogas Plant in Batavia. This cutting-edge facility is a win, win, win: it will provide renewable energy to the Ag Park, home to companies like Muller Quaker and Alpina yogurt, reduce the need to send waste to landfills, and help attract new businesses to locate to the Ag Park.” 

Previously: Company pitches idea of plant that converts food waste into energy at planning board meeting

The City of Batavia is also receiving two awards. There is $200,000 for a micro-enterprise fund. The money is to be awarded to 10 local businesses, five of which must be owned by low- to moderate-income people. The program is expected to create 10 new full-time equivalent jobs.

The city is also receiving $75,000 to draft a new comprehensive plan. 

"The plan will include public participation, an assessment of existing conditions and the development of goals and objectives based on LEED for Neighbhorhood Development," states the award announcement. "This project will promote the goals of the Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan and serve as a model for other rural cities."

The Town of Batavia will receive $30,000 for eastside sewer planning.

The Village of Alexander will receive $30,000 for wastewater infrastructure evaluation.

The Village of Bergen will receive $30,000 for collection system study.

All of the projects are meant to spur economic growth.

In 2011, the Cuomo administration established 10 regional economic development areas. The 10 areas compete with each other for funding each year.

The largest chunk of funding this year went to the Southern Tier, which is receiving $80.8 million.

Western New York, which includes Buffalo, but not Batavia, received more than $50 million.

State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle issued the following statement:

"The $80.7 million in funding awarded today will move us closer to our goal of securing a brighter economic future for Rochester and all of the Finger Lakes Region by creating thousands of new jobs and leveraging hundreds of millions in new investments."

October 14, 2014 - 9:47pm

Alpina Foods today informed 32 employees that their services will no longer be needed.

Each employee received a letter that blamed the layoffs on the cancellation of a contract by a "principle customer" on Oct. 10.

The letter informs employees they are being terminated effective Oct. 19 and tells them they will receive all earned wages and benefits and will be eligible through the Department of Labor for benefits, job training and job search assistance.

The Batavian received a copy of the termination letter from a source and requested confirmation of the layoffs from Alpina.

The following response was attributed to Gustavo Badino, U.S. general manager for Alpina Foods:

Alpina Foods confirms that the company will be reducing the workforce at its Western New York yogurt plant in October, in response to the early termination of one of our principle contracts.

Alpina Foods remains committed to Batavia and Western New York and views this current workforce reduction as a temporary but necessary approach to address mediate business challenges facing the company in the short term.

May 7, 2014 - 9:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

A company with roots in New York, but currently based in Connecticut, is looking to build a plant at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park that would convert food industry waste into heat and electricity.

"We make green power out of organic waste," said Paul Toretta, CEO of CH4 Biogas, while presenting his company's plans to the Town of Batavia Planning Board. "Once the digester does its thing, it captures methane and powers an engine that makes green power and puts it on the grid. The engine produces heat that can be used to heat Quaker Muller and Alpina, helping them cut their heating bill."

The cost of the plant is $15 million and CH4 has already secured a $2 million Cleaner and Greener grant from NYSERDA to help fund the project, but is looking to the state for more help.

Toretta said state officials recommended the company present its proposal to the town planning board because the state wouldn't get behind the idea unless it has community support. The state backing would help the company secure bank loans to completely finance the project.

"We're in a holding pattern while looking for help with funding," Toretta said when asked about the timetable for the project.

Once funding is in place, the plant would take nine months to build. The design is already completed because it's the same design used by the company for plants in Wyoming County and Ohio (for Campbell's Soup).

"We only build one plant," Toretta said. "It's the same plant over and over again."

CH4 would use local contractors to build and maintain the plant, which would eventually employ eight people full time, Toretta said.

"When you put that much concrete and steel in the ground there will be a number of people employed," Toretta said.

The plant would be expected to last at least 30 years.

"The project is upfront capital intensive," said Toretta, who is originally from Potsdam. "It takes 15 years to return the money invested to do this. It's a slow, steady project. You borrow money and it takes 15 years to make any return."

CH4 already processes whey and other waste from the Alpina and Quaker Muller (no whey comes out of the Muller plant) in Wyoming County.

A plant in the ag park would reduce transportation cost and the impact on the environment to truck it more than 20 miles away.

The plant would also help the Genesee County Economic Development Center attract more food processors to the ag park, Toretta said.

Chris Suozzi, GCEDC's VP for business development, agreed.

"It would complement what we're already doing," Suozzi said. "It would definately help with the marketing when you have a green ag park. What better way to market the park and bring in more companies?"

The plant would be set up so it could take any sort of organic food waste, including waste from products that were already packaged but were found to be defective in some way so couldn't be shipped to customers. Toretta said the plant could separate the food waste from the packaging and then recycle the plastic or metal containers.

The plant would produce very little waste itself, but what it did produce would go into the local sewer system, but with much less biological chemicals and suspended salts than could otherwise go into the waste stream.

The plant would also produce little in the way of odor, which is important to Alpina and Quaker Muller because the plant would be upwind from those facilities.

"If there was any type of odor, as you can imagine, Campbell Soup would not allow us to operate our plant there," Toretta said.

April 16, 2014 - 11:08am

Press release:

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) has been approved for a grant up to $130,000 from National Grid that will be used to continue the development of the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park (GVAB). The Agri-Business Park is home to Alpina Foods, LLC, and Muller Quaker Dairy, LLC.

The GGLDC, the real estate affiliate of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), recently acquired 37 acres of land adjacent to the Agri-Business Park. The grant from National Grid will be used to extend the current electrical distribution line along the newly constructed access road, as well as the engineering and design of the extension of the road, water and sewer lines.

The approximate $600,000 project is being funded by the GGLDC and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Agency and is expected to create approximately 100 construction jobs.

“National Grid continues to be a phenomenal partner in our economic development efforts in Genesee County and you have to look no further than to the continued growth of Agri-Park to see the return on investment of the various grants the company has provided through the years,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC.

“Genesee County continues to be a model for how to do economic development in New York State,” said National Grid Regional Executive Dennis Elsenbeck. “We are confident that the job creation and capital investment made to date in the Agri-Business Park will continue to occur as Steve and his team expand its footprint.”

The approved grant will be paid out upon project completion and comes from National Grid’s Shovel-Ready Incentive Program, which was created to help make high-potential sites more marketable for the expansion of job-creating companies. Information about National Grid’s suite of economic programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

September 24, 2013 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

Work is slated to begin Monday, Sept. 30 to add a center left-turn lane on Route 5 (East Main Street) from the city of Batavia line to Fargo Road in the towns of Batavia and Stafford, Genesee County. Temporary lane closures will be in effect during the daytime hours for approximately one week weather permitting.

The center turn lane will be created by restriping the roadway without widening the pavement. One of the two existing westbound travel lanes will be converted to a center turn lane with associated left-turn lanes striped at the side street intersections. The remaining westbound lane will serve the westbound thru traffic. Both eastbound lanes will remain the same.

The addition of a dedicated left-turn lane will provide a refuge area, reducing the risk of rear-end collisions for stopped or slow-moving vehicles waiting to turn into the Batavia Agri-Park and adjacent side streets. The restriping will also benefit left-turning traffic at other intersections along the corridor, including Fargo Road, Batavia-Stafford Townline Road, Seven Springs Road, Broadlawn Avenue and the numerous residential and commercial driveways. Signs and other lane markings will alert motorists of the change.

This work is being administered by the Town of Batavia with concurrence from the New York State Department of Transportation.

Motorists should drive with caution through the highway work zone and avoid driving distracted or under the influence of drugs and alcohol. For real-time travel information, call 511 or visit www.511NY.org. 511NY is New York State’s official traffic and travel information source.

September 20, 2013 - 5:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

There's heavy equipment moving a lot of earth around just west of the Partridge Farm on Ellicott Street Road, Town of Batavia.

Crews are building a new roadway, which will provide secondary access to the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. The secondary road is needed to accommodate anticipated growth and expansion of the park.

July 12, 2013 - 10:46am

Press release:

Alpina Foods has confirmed its intent to purchase 10 acres of land adjacent its brand-new plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. The acquisition doubles the company’s footprint, and comes only nine months after the grand opening of its 40,000-square-foot, $20-million facility that specializes in Greek yogurt production.

Alpina selected the site to build its first-ever North American manufacturing facility in 2011, after researching locations throughout the country. Company leaders felt the highly skilled Western New York workforce, thriving local dairy industry, and convenient access to major U.S. markets made Batavia an optimal location. The site is Alpina’s 10th global manufacturing facility, following locations in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

“This purchase reinforces our commitment to Batavia,” said Gustavo Badino, general manager of Alpina Foods. “We intend to expand here, and maintain this operation as our primary U.S. manufacturing location.”

The company already employs 55 at the plant, exceeding the goal of 50 the company committed to hiring by 2014, and expects to bring in additional team members in the coming months as production continues to increase.

Alpina will lay out its plans for the land over the next 24 months. Company leaders have worked closely with the Genesee County Economic Development Center, as well as the State’s Excelsior Jobs Program and numerous other state and regional economic development organizations in establishing – and expanding – its presence in New York State.

Alpina Foods is committed to its presence in Batavia, and works with many community organizations to make a positive impact on the region. Through the company’s philosophy of “collective prosperity,” Alpina strives to deliver success beyond its business dealings and constantly improve the community in which it operates.

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

June 3, 2013 - 11:05pm

Throughout the 90-minute opening ceremony for the new Muller Quaker Dairy Plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Steve Hyde sat in the second row and smiled.

Not one speaker -- and there were five of them -- mentioned Hyde by name. There was no official recognition of his work to bring this day about.

Still, he smiled.

You couldn't help but think of a proud father watching his son or daughter graduate.

Asked how he felt afterward, Hyde, as he usually does when posed such questions, demurred and praised others.

"It’s a great day for everybody in the community," Hyde said. "This was a dream of mine and a lot of other partners. It’s 10 years in the making and this is just phase one."

Hyde has his critics. Genesee County Economic Development Center, the organization he runs, has its skeptics. But the Muller Quaker plant is a big deal, especially for a county of only 57,000 people that hasn't had a big factory opening in more than five decades.

PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group invested $200 million in the facility and that dollar figure doesn't count product development, designs for new trade-secret machinery to create the Greek-style yogurt, new software to run the plant and the planning that goes into bringing a new product to market.

Ken Adams, president of Empire State Development, indicated he was a little bit awed by the idea of a global powerhouse like Pepsi and a German-based company like Theo Muller coming to Upstate New York.

"Having PepsiCo here, having Muller here, is like a global seal of approval for this park and its infrastructure," Adams said.

And he gives a lot of the credit for making it happen to Hyde.

"Steve Hyde as far as I’m concerned, he really put the agri-business park, this particular location, on the map at a statewide level," Adams said. "Steve is always in Albany working very closely with the legislators from the area, senate and assembly, working very close with the governor’s office.

"I’ve told this to him, so I'll say it to you," Adams added, "Steve Hyde is a forceful, well respected advocate for investment and economic development here in Batavia. He really put the site on the map and then he also pulls everybody together at the local and state level to make sure a project like this actually goes smoothly. That’s important for the company, for the investors, that there are no hiccups along the way."

A critical factor with Muller Quaker -- called Project Wave during the planning process -- was the speed at which all of the necessary permits could be secured. A lot of credit goes to Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials, but the GCEDC staff laid the ground work to have a shovel-ready site and push the paperwork through the process.

In his speech today, Theo Muller praised the local authorities who got approval for the plant so quickly.

"It would be unimaginable in Germany," he said with a wink. "In Germany that would have taken at the very least three years. You have to send a whole case of yogurt to them over there to get anything done."

Sen. Charles Schummer called the ag park a great idea of local leaders and said when GCEDC came to him for help, he was happy to jump in and secure federal grants for infrastructure.

"There is no better way to strengthen our dairy industry and create jobs than to build a park like this, which has helped attract this great company," Schumer said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who helped with the state legislative process on the project, noted that in any big project like this, stretching, as it does, across the boundaries of local, state and federal responsibilities, there are a lot of people who deserve credit for bringing it together, but Hyde certainly provided critical leadership.

"This is a big deal," Hawley said. "It's one of the largest plants in the country. We need jobs. I hear about it every day from constituents."

It takes a lot of work, Hawley said, to untangle the regulations that can hold up a business and a lot of people had a hand in bringing it together.

"A lot of the credit goes to Steve, but it's a team effort," Hawley said.

Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans and president of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council, is also a Steve Hyde fan. He believes Hyde will pull off the gargantuan task of developing WNY STAMP, the proposed 1,200-acre, high-tech manufacturing park in Alabama that could employ 9,300 people some day.

It's an audacious project, but Wegman said when there are people passionate about projects, they can make things happen.

"Steve is very excited about this," Wegman said last week during the governor's visit to Genesee Community College. "There are a lot of confidential things that can't be shared, but I feel confident that if somebody I believe in is excited about it, the chances of it happening are pretty good."

The success of the ag park only enhances the chance's of success with STAMP, Adams said.

"We’re very hopeful," Adams said. "It’s a globally competitive industry. The opportunity is at STAMP. It’s a great site. It’s much bigger than this site, the agri-business park, but Steve has done a good job at lining up all of the vital ingredients for that site -- power, water, obviously the land, permitting, all the things you need to really be shovel-ready when the right business comes along. He’s the chief marketer. He’s going to Albany tomorrow. He’s on it and he works very closely my colleagues at ESD on marketing STAMP, so we have our fingers crossed."

Hyde said it's all about building on the natural assets of Batavia and Genesee County and showing that can be done with the ag park will translate into confidence for other projects, such as STAMP.

"It helps build credibility in the eyes of some of the folks in the leadership roles in the state that we know how to do this here at the local level," Hyde said. "This (agriculture) is an industry where the regional assets were in great demand and we could make an impact, and when you look at the regional assets in the nano stuff in our region we’ve got the same situation developing."

June 3, 2013 - 9:53pm

According to Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, Batavians owe a big thank you to Danny Wegman.

No, not for promising one of his unriviled grocery stores to Genesee County, but for steering her attention toward yogurt and the need to produce it in Western New York.

"When I visited Danny in his flagship store in Rochester, Danny said to me, ‘Indra, you should get into the yogurt business because it’s growing extremely rapidly and if you do, the plant has to be located right around here in Upstate New York,' " Nooryi said. "I listened to Danny  because Danny is one of the most respected thinkers in the industry, and, Danny, we delivered on the promise.”

Wegman stood at the back of a tent crowded with local and state dignitaries and smiled broadly.

Last week, Wegman told The Batavian that it might take build out of the STAMP project in Alabama to bring a Wegmans to Batavia. Today, Wegman (top inset photo) had a slightly different take.

Coming out from a tour of the new Muller Quaker Dairy plant, he said, "more projects like this and we'll be here."

The dairy plant -- which will manufacture two brands of Greek-style yogurt, Muller FrutUp and Muller Corner -- officially opened today.

To start, it operates three production lines, employs 180 people in a 350,000-square-foot facility that could one day accommodate as many as 16 production lines.

Already, the plant produces 120,000 cups of yogurt per hour.

Sen. Charles Schumer announced during opening ceremonies that Muller Quaker has reached an agreement with the Upstate Milk Cooperative to source all of its milk from WNY dairy farmers.

The OA-TK-A plant in Batavia will produce the milk protein that Muller Quaker uses in its yogurt production (rather than strain milk as done in traditional Greek yogurt production, Muller Quaker adds protein to give its yogurt a similar rich, silky texture).

"This is an amazing shot in the arm for our economy here in Western New York and I am pledged to continue to do whatever I can do to make this the most successful venture in Western New York," Schumer said.

The project brings together two companies -- the worldwide giant in the food and beverage industry, PepsiCo, and a much smaller, but well respected, dairy company from Germany, the Theo Muller Group.

Stephan Muller, who moved to the United States to assume the reins of the new company, spoke about the entrepreneurial spirit, the risk taking of the $200 million investment by the two companies.

Muller represents the fifth generation of Mullers in the dairy business.

His father, Theo Muller, said through a translator, that the company made previous attempts to break into the U.S. market.

Stephen Muller described his father as a bit of a technophobe who never used a computer and then he got an iPhone just after Stephen Muller arrived in the U.S.

"He sent me a text message," Muller said. "I think it was his first one or one of his first ones. He said, ’520 years ago Christopher Columbus started his journey west with just three ships. Now you are our Columbus. Capital, excellent knowledge now are your ships, and one thing one cannot buy, the iron will to have success."

Nooyi (second inset photo) believes the product will be successful

PepsiCo already has a track record of success of developing a balanced portfolio of food and beverage products that she described as "fun for you, good for you and better for you."

"PepsiCo is becoming a real force in the good-for-you space," Nooyi said. "We have the best go-to-market systems and superior marketing, combined with Muller’s leadership in phenomenal dairy products, I think we’re going to become a real force in the dairy business in North America."

The success in just getting the plant open bodes well for Batavia, Schumer said. With 90 acres of available space at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, there will likely be more jobs coming to town.

"We could employ as many as 1,200 more people when the food processors learn of the transportation advantages, the food production advatnages and just the work force advantages that we have here in this area," Schumer said.  "Food processors from around the world are learning what we have to offer."

Ken Adams, president of Empire State Development, said the success of today's opening is something that will attract more investment in the park, especially in supply chain support for Muller.

"It’s a very powerful confirmation of this facility, the agri-business park as a center for international investment," Adams said. "One thing I’m struck with at this ceremony is you’ve got a global leader like PepsiCo partnering wth Muller and obviously Quaker, the PepsiCo brand, coming together right here in Batavia. The project confirms Batavia, Genesee County’s position, certainly in the Northeast if not North America, as a center of the yogurt universe."

To purchase prints of these photos, click here.

May 1, 2013 - 4:06pm

Roger Parkhurst provided Rep. Chris Collins with a tour of the Alpina Foods plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park today.

Parkhurst, left, gave Collins, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, an overview of Alpina's history, the Greek yogurt market in the United States and the process Alpina uses to make yogurt locally.

The plant started production in October and Parkhurst said the operation has already grown to what it projected for its second year of business. There are 55 permanent employees with Alpina locally, and to help meet production demands, the plant uses up to 100 temporary employees at times.

There are already plans on the drawing board to expand the plant.

November 29, 2012 - 9:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

GCEDC released this notice today:

For several months it has been widely reported that a mushroom growing farm, involving a $20 million investment and up 100 new jobs to the region, is being planned in the Batavia Agri-Business Park. As this initial first phase of this project continues to move forward, we are now actively pursuing Phase 2, which seeks to purchase a minimum of 5 acres to 10 acres of vacant land for the development of a composting facility.

Besides the 5-10 acre size, other features that we are seeking are as follows:

  • Zoned for Agriculture -- it may be possible that commercial or industrial zoned land can work as well;
  • Water and electric service to the site;
  • Topography: flat and cleared is ideal but anything reasonably close will be considered;
  • Topsoil -- active farm land with topsoil is "not" required, therefore, if you can use or derive additional value by using/selling this topsoil then please do;
  • Preferred location is on the west side of Batavia in zip codes 14020 / 14036 /14013 / 14005 but areas anywhere within a 5-mile radius around the Agri-Business Park will be considered;
  • Landowners be assured that the buyer is a well-qualified cash purchaser.

Should this opportunity be of interest to you please contact Steve Blake at (716) 362-8707 or e-mail at : [email protected]

November 13, 2012 - 5:32pm

If you've wondered what Muller Quaker Dairy is all about, or want to find out about employment opportunities, today was the day to meet executives, try out some yogurt or put in a job application at GCC.

Hundreds of people turned out in the afternoon and the event continues until 8 p.m. in the forum.

"We're excited to be a part of the local community, so we wanted to open our doors and let people know a little more about us," said Scott Gilmore, director communications for PepsiCo, one of the partners in the new yogurt plant at Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

There were executives on hand to explain plant design and operations, the booming yogurt industry and the nature of the partnership between PepsiCo and the Germany-based Theo Muller Group.

The yogurt plant is expected to employ nearly 240 people in its first round of hiring, and some local residents have already landed jobs with the company.

Muller Quaker HR personnel were on hand today accepting applications, meeting with job candidates and explaining more about employment options at the new plant.

At one point today, the job applicant line was more than a couple dozen people long.

Gilmore said people in blue jeans and people in suits showed up today, demonstrating the diversity of jobs that will be available at the plant.

If you're not able to make it to GCC by 8 p.m., Gilmore said the company plans more such community events, or job applicants can e-mail their resumes to [email protected].

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