Sweet corn processing at Bonduelle plant in Bergen
BERGEN, NY - Genesee County has always had farmland, crops, plants to process the harvest, and good transportation routes.
However, it was only ten years ago that a plan was drawn up, for a concerted effort to aggressively market those assets to agri-businesses, in hopes of luring them here.
Officials now say that after a decade, it's starting to gain traction.
"Everyone's all in the same boat, pulling on the same oars about growing food processing in this region," said Steve Hyde, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center.
The latest firm to enter the waters is French based Bonduelle, a global giant in the food processing industry,
Bonduelle launched its entrance into the U.S. Market by acquiring and renovating two struggling plants in Bergen and Oakfield, preserving 66 permanent and nearly 200 seasonal jobs, of workers who will process 163 million tons of vegetables a year, all grown by farmers within a 75 mile radius.
"These guys (Bonduelle) anchored and stabilized our crop situation and our crop farming demand and products, and that was huge because it was pretty uncertain a year ago," Hyde said.
But Bonduelle is not alone.
In recent years, there's been a boom in food processing and agri-business in these parts.
In 2012, Alpina Foods LLC decided to open its first specialty yogurt manufacturing plant in the United States at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia. PepsiCo, in a joint venture with German dairy company Theo Müller, also broke ground that year on a $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility at the park.
O-AT-KA Milk has also ramped up production through large investments in technology and modernization, and cheese maker Yancey's Fancy has begun clearing land to construct a new, $10 million facility in Pembroke.
"We were attracted by the agricultural region, the capacity of the facilities, and by the people that were working here," Bonduelle Americas CEO Daniel Vielfaure told WGRZ-TV.
In what could be considered a rarity in today's business world, Bonduelle did not ask for or receive any economic incentives from the government for its operation, although Vielfaure acknowledged the company might well do so if it seeks to expand in the future.
Business Facilities, a national trade publication concerning corporate site locations, now ranks Genesee County as the fourth best place in North America to set up a food processing business...a ranking Hyde figures will climb.
"There's four or five other projects that are in heavy negotiation right now...and while I can't go any further than that, there's some real growth continuing in this region," he said.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Terry Belke. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2