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Candy maker sets May deadline for grants for factory upgrades

Candy maker sets May deadline for grants for factory upgrades

Candy maker Richardson Brands is willing to wait until May to learn whether grant funding for factor

Candy maker Richardson Brands is willing to wait until May to learn whether grant funding for factory upgrades is forthcoming. If it is not, the company, which employs 128 people, will have to close up shop and move operations to Connecticut, a company official said Thursday.

Richardson CEO Don Butte said he addressed employees who are growing concerned about their jobs to assure them the company is trying to gather funding for critical upgrades needed before another village business "” Beech-Nut "” closes down and moves to the Florida Business Park.

The Beech-Nut facility on Church Street and the Richardson Brands buildings on both sides of Erie Boulevard were once part of a single complex owned by Beech-Nut, Butte said.

Beech-Nut provides steam from its Church Street plant to the Erie Boulevard site through underground piping, but the flow of steam will be shut down when Beech-Nut leaves. "We need to be prepared for that," Butte said.

Butte said it will cost approximately $1.2 million to install a boiler dedicated to the Richardson Brands' operations.

So far, grant applications have been submitted to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for $400,000, to National Grid for $400,000 and to the U.S. Department of Energy for $200,000, Butte said.

An application for $500,000 in the form of a state grant has been submitted as well, Montgomery County Economic Development Specialist Crystal R. Ricciuti said.

Butte said most companies that make candy use steam for cooking the candy; they also use it to heat the building.

Butte said the only alternative to installing a new boiler in the plant "” which would take about 15 months including planning and design "” is to bring in large, mobile steam generators on trucks.

It's unlikely Richardson Brands would take that route because of the cost, he said.

Richardson uses only about one-tenth of the steam generated by Beech-Nut's boilers, and the condensation return line is no longer functioning, so working out a deal with Beech-Nut to keep the boilers running after Beech-Nut leaves is unlikely, Butte said.

Butte said private financing through a bank is unlikely as well because it's his understanding bankers want more assurances, such as financial support from the state, to know the company will continue operating.

Richardson's local operation uses only about 30 percent of the building's space, but company officials want to buy other businesses to fill up the plant, Butte said.

Acquisition plans on hold right now could grow the company into a $100 million operation within five years, Butte said.

Currently, Richardson Brands does about $25 million in business with a payroll of about $5 million, he said.

The company is also planning to apply for more grant funding over the next three years "” $14 million altogether.

It was unclear Thursday how likely the company is to secure such funding.

Asked for comment, Empire State Development on Thursday provided the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson: "Empire State Development has been working with Richardson Brands and will continue to work with them to determine whether, and the extent to which, our assistance may be required."

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