The next time you take a refreshing sip of Love Beets’ organic beet juice or LiDestri’s Pink Limoncello, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of labor of innovators in Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York.
At a place where the legendary Eastman Kodak Company developed the tools of modern photography, entrepreneurs in food and beverage processing are creating “Kodak moments” of their own.
The leaders of LiDestri Food, Beverage & Spirits and Love Beets Production LLC decided that the best place to make edible delights is the 1,200-acre business park in Monroe County near the southern shore of Lake Ontario in Western New York.
Both found the basic ingredients needed for food-processing success inside the park.
Founded in Rochester in 1975 by the same family that earlier had founded and later sold the famous Ragu Packing Company, LiDestri today owns three buildings in Eastman Business Park (EBP) totaling 1.4 million sq. ft. LiDestri uses 650,000 sq. ft. of this space for its food and beverage operations. It is also a joint venture partner with Love Beets there.
LiDestri makes consumer products for many of the best-known brands in America, including Frito Lay and Newman’s Own. Of the firm’s 1,100 full-time employees, about 350 work at the LiDestri plant in EBP.
Those ranks are growing, says Phil Viruso, vice president of manufacturing for LiDestri. “We just expanded our manufacturing to a new technology called HPP — high-pressure processing — within Eastman Business Park,” he says. “We opened that facility in January. It’s a new technology that we’re using to extend the shelf life of clean-labeled foods. We put in a large capital investment and we’re hiring 16 employees for it.”
The local workforce drives the company’s success, he notes. “We have an exceptional labor force,” Viruso says. “There was a tremendous opportunity to repurpose an existing campus which made it financially possible to invest in our operations here. But the biggest competitive advantage we have is the skilled, educated and hard-working labor force. It is very productive, and it is one of the anchors keeping us here.”
Viruso cites other location advantages. “The resources available in Upstate New York are unmatched,” he says. “Whether it be water, electricity or other utilities, they’re all an advantage here. Plus, having a large population within a 250-miles radius gives us an edge. It is about resources and labor.”
Tim Palmer, director of Eastman Business Park, quantifies several of the park’s advantages:
On top of that, Greater Rochester is known for its abundance of technical talent, particularly in the chemical, energy, commercialization and manufacturing sectors. Rochester ranks fifth in patents per capita, according to Forbes, and is the 13th most innovative city in the US, according to Brookings.
The area also receives significant state support, as Empire State Development has named food processing as one of the target strategies for revitalizing Upstate New York.
Dolores Kruchten, vice president of Eastman Business Park, says the amenity-rich business park is a natural fit for any food processor. “We have 400 acres of shovel-ready land with large contiguous tracts available for development,” she notes. “Over a million square feet of office, labs, manufacturing and warehouse space are available as well. Technical services like analytical sciences, specialty chemistry, and coating and testing are all available on site. And our conference facilities include a 1,964-seat theater, formal dining room, gym and health club.”
Features like this keep the park growing. Viruso says that LiDestri has a number of expansion projects in the pipeline. “We are adding a beverage line that will be finished in November and will add another shift of workers,” he says. “That will be another 15 employees.”
LiDestri’s JV partner, Love Beets, is also growing. David Stoklosa, managing director of Love Beets Production LLC, says his firm signed the JV agreement with LiDestri in July 2015 and began production in the park in January 2016.
“We went from zero employees last year to 91 now. We will soon have 140,” Stoklosa says. “We’re already running a full second shift five days a week and we’re looking to grow our business even more. This was the right marriage with the location for handling millions of pounds of beets. You want to be close to the beets, and about two-thirds of our beets come from Western New York.”
Stoklosa emphasized the value of the wastewater treatment plant on site. “That system is extremely vital to processing beets,” he says. “Beets are very red. That means there is a very high waste stream and very color-rich wastewater. This new industrial wastewater treatment plant is capable of handling tens of millions of gallons of water per day.”
Love Beets leases 100,000 sq. ft. from LiDestri in EBP. “The Rochester area is the best-kept secret in New York,” adds Stoklosa. “The workforce is outstanding, and you can get from one side of the county to the other in 25 minutes at rush hour. The quality of talent and education makes this a great place for large and small businesses to thrive.”
This investment profile was prepared under the auspices of Eastman Business Park. For more information, contact Tim Palmer at 678-523-9814 or email@example.com. On the web, go to www.eastmanbusinesspark.com.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.