After months of bad news in the business and employment arena, officials in the village of Canajoharie are optimistic about news that manufacturer Richardson Brands is forging ahead with plans to expand its work force threefold in coming years.
Village officials gathered for a conference call with Richardson Brands CEO Donald A. Butte, who said despite major hurdles in recent years — including massive flooding — the company is moving ahead with the goal of increasing production.
Richardson Brands makes a variety of candies and in 2006 acquired Gravymaster, which makes Dryden and Palmer rock candy and Gravymaster gravy additives.
Current operations take up only about 12 percent of the company’s 180,000-square-foot 101 Erie Blvd. facility, village Trustee Tom Grainer said.
Butte said despite roadblocks like the impending departure of Beech-Nut, which supplies the company with heat and power through steam, and flooding that inundated the facility in 2006, the company is actively seeking additional businesses to acquire with the goal of increasing production to more than $100 million a year.
“With the support of the village and with the help of the county and the state, we believe we can get ourselves back on track and achieve our goals,” Butte said during a conference call at Canajoharie Village Hall on Thursday.
Butte said company officials are working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to explore options for a power plant and heating system.
Richardson currently employs 126 people. Butte said that with the available space at the facility, he envisions production requiring as many as 400 employees in upcoming years.
Roger Vincent, a principal at the private equity firm Founders Equity, which bought Richardson Foods, said officials are committed to staying in Canajoharie.
“It’s the place that we chose that we would like to make the focus of our operations,” Vincent said.
“Our goal for growing to our $100 million mark was to do it through acquisitions. It’s a very large plant ... and it’s not being fully utilized,” Vincent said.
Butte said he was expecting that another acquisition could take place by the end of this year and said there are three different companies being eyed for possible purchase.
Village Mayor Leigh Fuller said that if the company’s plans work out, the addition of jobs to the village will be a benefit.
But he said the developments won’t likely impact the costs to the village associated with the loss of revenue from the departure of Beech-Nut, which uses 1.3 million gallons of water daily.
“We are looking for a better life in Canajoharie ... Richardson will help; they will not be the answer to our total problems when Beech-Nut closes down,” Fuller said.
“The truth is, we need help here,” Fuller said.