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Over the past several months, Beech-Nut has made a number of business decisions regarding the improvement of our operations in New York state.
We are proud of our over 100-year history in New York and Montgomery County and are very happy to continue doing business here with the construction of a new, cutting-edge and state-of-the-art manufacturing and processing facility in the town of Florida. It was exciting to have Gov. Spitzer, Speaker Silver, and many other state and local government officials and community dignitaries join Beech-Nut representatives to formally announce these plans several months ago.
However, perhaps lost in all of the excitement to build this new facility, which will retain over 350 jobs and create up to 135 new jobs, is the impact our relocation will have on the village and town of Canajoharie, where we have maintained operations for the last hundred years.
Buildings not adaptable
We have examined every possibility to continue production in Canajoharie, but the current buildings cannot be adapted to accept the necessary new technology to remain competitive in this challenging market. Destroying the site and rebuilding would mean being out of production for more than two years. Unfortunately staying in Canajoharie is simply not possible.
Since the announcement to build a new facility and North American headquarters for our parent company — Hero Group, Inc. — we have communicated to officials in Canajoharie that we remain committed to finding a reuse for the existing structures, including new businesses. I personally communicated this again to Canajoharie Mayor Fuller on Feb. 25th at a meeting to discuss these potential re-uses.
To date we have met with the Arkell Foundation, village trustees and the mayor, at a previous meeting, where we agreed to collaborate to find appropriate re-uses for the site. In the meantime, we have hired experts to evaluate the existing structures for potential re-uses, including identifying businesses that might be suitable to utilize the existing facilities.
Beech-Nut made a commitment to the village that before we reached any final decisions about what businesses may move into the existing structures, that these entities would be acceptable to the town and its residents.
Furthermore, we are committed to increasing the purchase of agricultural goods produced in New York state. As our production will increase, so will the need for raw materials to make our products. The existing facilities in Canajoharie could be used for fruit and vegetable processing companies to conduct business operations that would service our new manufacturing and processing facility.
In fact, we have begun working with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to help us identify these types of companies as well as independent growers. We also plan to conduct an aggressive marketing plan targeting these types of businesses as well as many others who could use the facilities.
Beech-Nut also feels compelled to dispel some issues related to water and wastewater (sewer) operations in the village of Canajoharie. The village was required by New York state to update its systems because both were extremely antiquated. The village incurred a debt of approximately $4.6 million to build a new water system, but Beech-Nut has been paying approximately $700,000 annually to the village for our usage. As such, the village will have recouped $3.5 million in fees from Beech-Nut since the construction of the new system.
The same is true of the wastewater system. The village incurred $1.6 million in debt to upgrade the wastewater system, but Beech-Nut is paying approximately $1.1 million annually to this system, for a total of $5.5 million by the time we move out of the current facilities.
Beech-Nut strongly believes the company has paid its fair share of water and wastewater services and certainly enough revenue to help the village pay off a significant portion of its debt. It’s important to remember that there are other companies and consumers utilizing the village’s water and wastewater systems. New users of the Canajoharie site will also contribute to the village’s water and sewer income. The fact of the matter is that these systems were not constructed to serve Beech-Nut, but because of public health and safety issues to the residents.
We realize Canajoharie residents are concerned about its future without Beech-Nut. We are committed to helping the village in every way we can because Canajoharie is part of the local community that Beech-Nut will continue to be a part of as a neighbor in the town of Florida.
Edouard Feller is vice president of business development of Hero Group/Beech-Nut.
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