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Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Alpina laying off 32 employees at Batavia plant

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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

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

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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 10:08 am

National Grid approves grant for agri-business park expansion

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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Route 5 being restriped to add left-turn lane at ag park entrance

post 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.

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Photos: Construction begins on new roadway leading to ag park off Route 63

post 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.

Friday, July 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

Nine months after opening yogurt plant, Alpina buying 10 more acres in agri-business park

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.”

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

GCEDC CEO out of the spotlight during ceremony for big yogurt plant he helped put on the map

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."

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Officials optimistic about yogurt and Genesee County with opening of Muller Quaker plant

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.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Photo: Chris Collins gets first look at Alpina yogurt plant

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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 9:16 am

Land sought for composting facility to support mushroom farm at ag 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]

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