Beech-Nut closes warehouse unit

Two years before Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. moves to a new headquarters in the Florida Business Park,

Two years before Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. moves to a new headquarters in the Florida Business Park, the baby food maker’s warehouse operation in the village is entering its twilight.

Beech-Nut is preparing to outsource the last of its Canajoharie warehousing operations to Distribution Unlimited Inc., one of the Northeast’s largest public warehousing companies. The outfit is owned by the Galesi Group, with operations in Guilderland, Rotterdam and Scotia.

The 300,000-square-foot, one-story warehouse in Canajoharie features the “BEECH-NUT” sign on its roof.

Officials for Beech-Nut and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 50 are in negotiations over the warehousing outfit’s remaining 20 organized workers, said Earl Wells, a spokesman for Beech-Nut’s Swiss parent Hero Group.

Hero’s outsourcing of Beech-Nut’s warehousing arm completes the phase out that previous owners of the company started in the 1990s. It also reflects how the 550,000-square-foot Florida facility will differ from its Canajoharie predecessor by being purely production-focused.

Beech-Nut used the warehouse at its century-old plant to store company products. It also has a warehouse in Fort Plain, but the company will shed that facility when it makes the move to Florida in 2010, said Kenneth Rose, director of the Montgomery County Economic Development and Planning Department.

“All warehouse operations are not going to be continued at the new facility,” Wells said.

Warehouse workers affected by the outsourcing will be offered jobs at the new facility, but they will be in production positions, Wells said. Joyce Alston, president for Local 50 in Edison, N.J., could not be reached for comment.

Hero in May broke ground for the $124 million project in Florida. The company will keep its 350 existing positions in Montgomery County and create 135 new jobs. To aid Hero as it relocates its headquarters from St. Louis to Florida, state and county governments are providing it with about $107 million in incentives, mostly in the form of tax breaks.

The warehousing operations’ exit provides a prelude to Beech-Nut’s exodus from the village, where it was founded in the 1890s as a bacon dealer. It started selling baby food in 1931. County and village officials will seek new tenants for the sprawling Canajoharie facility.

“What it does is it allows us to advertise for that portion of the facility almost immediately,” Rose said of the warehouse’s vacancy.

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