Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that a joint venture between PepsiCo and German manufacturer Theo Muller will bring a new yogurt procuding facility and 186 jobs to Batavia.
The joint venture, called Wave Holdings LLC, will also invest over $200 million into the local economy. For those vested in growing Western New York's economy, this is considered a big piece in the puzzle. "If I could use a word beyond ecstatic, I think that's really what we in our community are about, having a company like Wave Holdings come to Genesee County," said Steve Hyde, President and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center.
Wave Holdings looked at several potential sites across the northeast, ultimately settling on the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia. Access to the region's dairy farms, fresh water and distributions routes, along with the shovel ready site were key factors in selecting the Batavia park, New York's first site dedicated to food processing businesses. "I really think that the Ag-Park is the nucleus that tied all the wonderful assets we have in this region together," said Hyde.
It also helped that the State kicked in $13 million in tax breaks, along with $12 million from Genesee County. Hyde said that's the reality of today's world. "You have to level the cost playing field and the only way to do that is through incentives, and that's what then is the difference maker, the frosting on the cake, and really brings you the deals home," said Hyde.
The new yogurt plant will create 186 jobs. Add to that facilities for Alpina yogurt and Marktec already underway at the Ag-Park, and you see the seeds of a strategy. Western New York is a rapidly growing hotbed for food processing. Hyde expects more businesses to follow suit, not just in Genesee County, but across the region. "We have a dynamic food processing industry that creates tons of jobs and goes right down to the farm gate," he said. "Hugely great regional strategy for success."
Mark Peterson, President and CEO of the Greater Rochester Enterprise, echoed Hyde's themes. He said the deal bringing a joint venture of two of the world's largest food and beverage distributors to Batavia shows the strength of our assets, including education. Cornell University has the country's leading food-science department. The Ivy League school is partnering with Genesee Community College to create opportunities for a greater number of students to earn a degree in food processing technology. That will allow them to walk out of the classroom and into these jobs.
The yogurt plant will be constructed over the next two years. New York is becoming the country's leader in yogurt production. The state currently has 29 yogurt plants, which produced 530 million pounds of yogurt in 2011, a 43 percent increase from the year before. From a dairy standpoint, the 15 county region which makes up Western New York produces 40 percent of the state's milk.
Hyde said he and others have been focused on bringing technology-driven manufacturing back to the Finger Lakes region. In the last ten years, the Genesee County Economic Developement Center has identified food processing, medical devices and high tech nano manufacturing as the key industries that will spur the region's economy.