Upstate Niagara to buy Campbell plant, save 150 jobs

ALBANY -- Upstate Niagara, a dairy farmer cooperative, has bought the struggling Kraft-Heinz facility in the Southern Tier and has pledged to keep at least 150 workers who were set to lose their jobs with the plant's imminent closure.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer announced the agreement Friday morning, saying the company has agreed to acquire the Campbell, Steuben County, plant and invest $10 million for new machinery.

Kraft-Heinz signaled earlier this year it planned to close the plant and lay off the 330 workers, but state and federal officials pushed to find a buyer and save as many jobs as possible, Schumer and Cuomo said.

“This agreement gives this facility a new lease on life, where it will continue to be an economic engine and major employer in the Campbell community for years to come,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“Make no mistake: This plant was in real danger of closing, which would have been devastating locally and caused ripple effects across the entire region and New York's dairy industry."

The announcement, obtained by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau, is the latest effort by the state to preserve jobs at four upstate Kraft-Heinz facilities.

In November 2015, Cuomo and Schumer crafted a deal with state and local incentives to keep open a Kraft-Heinz plant in Avon, Livingston County, and two other plants, saving nearly 1,000 jobs.

But even in that deal, the Campbell plant remained in limbo. The sides agreed to spend the next year or two looking for a new buyer before it would close.

The effort proved difficult, and Kraft-Heinz issued notice to the state that the facility would close in August without a buyer.

The Campbell plant produces Polly-O String Cheese, mozzarella cheese and other Italian cheeses.

“This agreement that Governor Cuomo and I put together with Kraft-Heinz is news we should all say ‘cheese about.,'" Schumer said in a statement.

"Working together through many challenges – for over a year – we went from a grim situation, where the Campbell plant was on the verge of being boarded up, to where we are today: an Upstate New York company will buy the plant and keep it open for business."

Upstate Niagara has developed a growing footprint with dairy farmers across the region. It now has 360 family-owned and operated farms as part of the cooperative that produces dairy products.

The agreement includes a packaging contract between Upstate Niagara and Kraft-Heinz, officials said. Kraft-Heinz also pledged to invest $3 million to $5 million to upgrade the facility.

The state will provide up to $5 million in grants to keep the facility open. The goal is to start with 125 employees and grow to more than 150 jobs over the next year, the announcement states.

“We’re thrilled to announce that Upstate Niagara Cooperative has agreed to purchase our Campbell dairy facility and has signed a long-term co-packing agreement with Kraft Heinz,” said Michael Mullen, the senior vice president of government Affairs at The Kraft Heinz Co., in a statement.

“This deal guarantees that at least 125 jobs will remain in Campbell with anticipated growth to 150 within a year, during which and that our business customers will experience zero disruption in the service of our dairy products.

Larry Webster, CEO of Upstate Niagara Cooperative, said the acquisition will aid the cooperative's growth.
“We look forward to adding the Campbell cheese facility to our organization in the coming weeks,” he said in a statement.

“As a dairy cooperative owned by farm families throughout the region, this acquisition is an investment by our member owners towards continued and long-term growth for our cooperative and the Campbell facility."


 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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