Steuben Foods plans major expansion

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 3, 2010 at 6:32 AM EDT

By Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink

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Steuben Foods plans major expansion

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 3, 2010 at 6:32 AM EDT

Steuben Foods Inc. is poised to start a $52 million expansion of its Elma plant - a move that could see the company add 150 workers in the coming years.

The Steuben expansion comes after the company considered adding a West Coast location instead of adding square footage and workers in Elma.

The deal, however, hinges on various public-sector agencies providing a potpourri of incentives to the company, which produces aseptic drinks and juices.

Steuben Foods is working with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency on a sales tax break and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes package. The ECIDA will hold a public hearing on its incentive package on June 8 and its full board of directors are expected to vote on the deal during their June 14 meeting.

Steuben is also working with Empire State Development Corp. on a grant package and seeking assurances from the New York Power Authority that it will continue to receive an annual allotment of 8.75 megawatts of low-cost hydropower. Both state agencies are expected to consider and approve the requests by mid-summer.

Collectively, the incentives will help Steuben expand its nearly 300,000-square-foot operation by another 90,000-square-feet and see its annual production spike well above the half-billion units of drinks, juices and other aseptic products its makes in Elma. The bulk of the new equipment will handle bottling operations.

"Everything needs to be lined up," said Tom Krol, Steuben general counsel. "At this point, we are expecting a favorable outcome across the board."

John Cappellino, Erie County Industrial Development Agency director of business development, pointed out his agency has a long track of working with Steuben Foods and he expects that to continue well into the future.

"That they want to make this expansion here instead of somewhere in California or the West Coast is nothing but good news," Cappellino said.

Steuben has invested more than $200 million in the former Western Electric Co. plant since it moved into the nearly 800,000-square-foot facility in 1985. The plant had been vacant for more than a decade before Steuben was courted, mainly by the ECIDA and then-Erie County Executive Edward Rutkowski.

The plant employs 475 people on a full- and part-time basis and is one of the region's largest agri-business and food processing companies.

"That plant could still be sitting there derelict, if it weren't for Steuben," Cappellino said.

Krol said Steuben hopes to start the expansion project by late summer.

"Our goal is to move this forward as quickly as possible," he said. "We're ready to start right away."