Onion Processing Plant Sprouting in Oswego County
No matter how you slice, dice or peel it,
the onion business in Oswego County will soon get a little sweeter
— thanks to a brand new venture and a big assist from local
economic development agencies. Empire Produce Processors (EPP),
a new onion product supplier, announced in August that production
and marketing of a line of fresh processed sweet and pungent onion
products will begin soon at a new 27,000 square-foot plant on state
Route 104 in the town of Oswego. Owners Jim and Sam Zappala expect
to produce a full line of whole peeled,
sliced and diced onion products for the food service industry.
The $2.9 million project will receive financial
assistance from the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency
(IDA) and from a Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan through
Operation Oswego County (OOC). EPP will be open for business early
to mid January 2004. The project is expected to create more than
The company will utilize state-of-the-art
production equipment to peel 2” to 5” onions. The machines
require minimal hand labor aside from the manual orientation of
the bulbs to ensure accurate removal of onion tops and bottoms.
“Because we will have technology that
will allow us to process a wide variety of onion sizes, we will
be able to draw a significant portion of our supply from local growers
who often produce slightly smaller onions than onions produced in
competing areas in the country, therefore supporting our local economy,”
said Jim Zappala.
Prepared onion consumption in the United
States averages 10 to 19 pounds per person, per year, with the largest
market for processed onion products in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic
states, according to EPP.
“We see the growing trends in the consumption
of fresh cut produce as an indicator of potential for growth in
the fresh processed onion industry,” said Zappala.
Owners Jim and Sam Zappala are no strangers
to the onion business. Zappala Farms is the largest producer of
onions in New York State specializing in the sweet variety with
an annual onion production volume of 250,000 40-pound boxes of sweet
onions that are marketed under the “Empire Sweet” brand.
Sam Zappala is also general manager of Oswego
Growers and Shippers, a company that buys and sells onions from
local, state and national growers and suppliers with an annual volume
of 750,000 50-pound units and gross sales of more than $6 million
“Processing is the final link in the
cycle of onion production in Oswego County,” said Jim Zappala.“
EPP will be able to supply its customers with fresh processed onion
products on virtually a year-round basis without having to draw
raw product from other areas.”
The project will also receive financial assistance
from other OOC partners who are helping to finance the new manufacturer,
including Empire State Development Corporation, Central New York
Enterprise Development Corporation, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation
and an Economic Development Initiative Fund (EDIF) grant from the
Oswego County Legislature.
“In the midst of a struggling economy,
we are fortunate to have the investment of an agricultural manufacturer
like Empire Produce Processors in Oswego County,” said L.
Michael Treadwell, CEcD, executive director of OOC. “The agricultural
industry has long been an essential component of Oswego County’s
Oswego County Legislature Chairman Morris
Sorbello commented, “Being an onion farmer myself, I am proud
to see our homegrown Oswego County onions evolve into a marketable,
diverse product with worldwide appeal. A new business like Empire
Produce Processors is a shot in the arm at a time when long-time
manufacturers such as Nestle and International Paper have closed
in Oswego County.”
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to Close in Fulton; OOC Searching for Buyer
Sonoco Flexible Packaging, the successor
company to the Morrill Press in Fulton, announced its plans in August
to close its local plant becoming the latest statistic in the city’s
loss of manufacturing jobs due to consolidation and cost cutting.
OOC Executive Director L. Michael Treadwell
commented, “Much to the dismay of Operation Oswego County,
along with both county and city officials, Fulton will endure yet
another setback as Sonoco Flexible Packaging has opted to phase
out its local plant by early 2004. According to Sonoco, this consolidation
is part of the company's previously announced plans to reduce its
average cost structure by more than $60 million and is expected
to result in significant savings for the company. While that may
be a sound business decision for Sonoco, it means a significant
loss for the Fulton community and the company’s loyal and
As was the case with Nestle, various economic
development funding and incentives were either provided or made
available to Sonoco in the past decade. Most recently, OOC and Niagara
Mohawk assisted Sonoco in obtaining an 800-kilowatt allocation of
electricity through the New York State Power for Jobs program. The
allocation wasextended to Sonoco in order to help secure the plant’s
Treadwell pointed out that last year, with
the assistance of OOC, the Oswego County Legislature, Empire State
Development, and the Fulton Community Development Agency, Sonoco
invested $1 million in new equipment to add “E-Beam”
technology at its Fulton plant in order to help make it more competitive
in the packaging market. However, due to the overall status of the
economy, corporations like Sonoco now have excess capacity.
Consolidations and mergers of operations
have negatively affected our local economy.
Operation Oswego County is actively working
to attract a potential buyer for the Sonoco facility.
As the closing of another long-time Fulton
manufacturer looms, there continues to be an encouraging steady
stream of small business development in Oswego County. Small business
is a vital component of the county’s economy and has proven
to be a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy national, state and local
economy (See Business Assistance column).
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Results: Oswego Area is a Prime Location for Call Centers
The The city of Oswego area is an ideal
location for call centers and light manufacturing operations, according
to a comparative cost analysis initiated by the City of Oswego Community
Development Office (CDO) and Operation Oswego County (OOC).
Results of the study, conducted by location
consultants The Boyd Company, indicated that compared to a sampling
of 30 locations throughout the United States, the total annual operating
costs of a proposed 300-worker call center in the Oswego area are
the most competitive at $10.9 million; 17% lower than the average
cost estimate of $13.2 million in the study.
In addition, study results showed that compared
to 24 other locations throughout the United States for operating
a 400-employee, 150,000-square foot light manufacturing plant in
the Oswego area, annual operating costs would be $4.3 million lower
at $17.7 million than those of the location with the highest operating
costs in Detroit, Mich. The Oswego area was also 11% lower than
the average cost estimate of $19.9 million.
“Because of a cooperative effort between
the City of Oswego, the County of Oswego and Operation Oswego County,
we will now be able to utilize the collected information from the
study as a marketing tool to aggressively target specific types
of industry that have potential for the Oswego area,” said
Oswego Mayor John Gosek.
The comparison study was conducted using
diverse locations throughout the United States including a series
of small and large market locations such as Buffalo, NY, Dallas,
TX, Knoxville, TN, Danbury, CT, and Albuquerque, NM, as well as
those areas with major concentrations of call center and light manufacturing
operations such as Jacksonville, FL, Charlotte, NC and Phoenix,
To create additional visibility for Oswego
as a potential call center location, results of the study will be
shared with publication editors in various communities across the
According to SearchNetworking.com, a network
of industry-specific IT Web sites, a call center is a central location
where customer and other telephone calls are handled by an organization,
usually with some amount of computer automation. Call centers are
used by mail-order catalog organizations, telemarketing companies,
computer product help desks, and any large organization that uses
the telephone to sell or service products and services. Call centers
employ 100-500 people on average.
“It’s important to note that
we plan to specifically solicit technical inbound call centers as
opposed to outbound call centers. Inbound call centers provide high
tech positions that pay better wages,” said OOC’s L.
Michael Treadwell. The fact that Oswego is the home of a four-year
university, SUNY Oswego, is a significant factor in attracting call
center interest in the area, according to Treadwell.
Another key factor that is needed in order
to make a community an attractive location for a call center is
the availability of quality office and/or open box type space that
can be quickly and easily retrofitted for their specific use, he
The study was funded by the city of Oswego
and the Oswego County Legislature’s Economic Development Initiative
Fund administered by OOC.
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Incentives Available for Business
To assist and encourage the growth of new
and expanding businesses in Oswego County, several incentives have
recently been initiated:
Energy Efficiency In Empire Zones Program:
Businesses certified and located in the Oswego and Fulton Empire
Zones (EZ) may be eligible to receive up to 50% funding (maximum
of $25,000) to implement energy efficiency technology and systems
with Niagara Mohawk’s Energy Efficiency In Empire Zones program.
This is an excellent opportunity to make your business more profitable
by reducing energy consumption and enhancing productivity. The program
encourages efficiency upgrades such as lighting, electronic speed
controls, electric load management, building automation systems,
motors and HVAC systems.
EZ Boundaries Revised: Boundary revisions
in the EZs were recently expanded to offer even greater development
potential in Oswego County. Prospective or expanding businesses
certified and located in one of the two EZs are eligible for special
assistance and benefits designed to create the best climate possible
for profitability and growth. Some of these benefits include preferential
treatment for New York State-sponsored programs and local lending
programs; priority status for both licensing and coordinating with
all New York State regulatory agencies; special employee training
assistance programs; and free water for three years in the Oswego
EZ. Key revisions include a change in total acreage in the Oswego
EZ to 1,245 with a reserve balance of 35 acres for future expansion
and the expansion of commercial areas in the town of Minetto, as
well as the expansion of the Fulton EZ to include properties in
the town of Volney and commercial areas in the town of Granby and
city of Fulton.
Tax Relief Program for Capital Investment:
If your company has been planning to invest in new equipment or
machinery, now is the time to take action thanks to the Jobs and
Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 passed by Congress
this year. This legislation increases the amount of money small
business owners can deduct from their taxes from 2003 to 2006 for
investment in new equipment such as computers and machinery. OOC
is authorized to finance projects using the SBA 504 loan program,
which is designed to promote economic development growth and job
creation in small businesses and make the overall financing structure
for a new business or project more attractive and affordable. The
program offers accessible, fixed rate, long term financing for land,
buildings and equipment.
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Economic Development Projects
Recent economic development projects around
Oswego County include:
DeWald Roofing Company, Inc. of East Syracuse,
will relocate its business to the town of Hastings creating 40 jobs.
Funding for the project will be assisted by Fleet Bank and a Small
Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan through OOC.
Fulton Tool Company, with coordination assistance
from OOC and the Fulton Community Development Agency, will soon
relocate from its former location on Schuyler Street in the city
of Fulton to the plant formerly occupied by Oswego Wire on Route
3 in Fulton. Fulton Tool’s Schuyler Street plant was destroyed
by fire this summer. Nine full-time employees are expected to be
retained and 11 additional full-time positions will be created.
Columbia Mills Site: A master redevelopment
plan for the former Columbia Mills 90-acre property in the town
of Minetto was expanded to include properties located on the east
side of state Route 48 to enhance the potential for commercial redevelopment.
The properties are also being added to the Oswego Empire Zone.
WiseBuys Stores, Inc. will be a new department
store located in the former 59,600 square-foot Ames building in
Pulaski. The $1 million store will be one of five WiseBuys stores
in the North Country and will create 55 jobs. The project will receive
financial assistance from the County of Oswego Industrial Development
Agency (IDA), New York Business Development Corporation and Key
The Sub Shop will be a new restaurant located
in the former location of Jreck Subs in the city of Oswego. Renovations
will be made to the existing building to offer submarine sandwiches,
coffee and ice cream which is expected to create 14 jobs. The project
will receive financial assistance from the IDA.
Port City Family Practice will occupy a new
8,000 square foot medical office facility and a lab operation affiliated
with Oswego Hospital to be constructed in the city of Oswego. The
project will create six jobs and retain nine. Funding assistance
will be provided by the IDA, Community Bank and the City of Oswego
Community Development Office.
Joe’s Corner Market will be a new 2,400
square-foot grocery/convenience retail store in the town of Palermo.
The business will also include a custom metal fabrication shop specializing
in trailer hitches and hand railings. The project is expected to
create three jobs and will be funded by Fulton Savings Bank and
S&B Sheaffer, Inc. is a new bait and
tackle store with three overnight lodging units and boat repair
services located in the town of Mexico. Two seasonal jobs will be
created. Funding assistance was provided by the IDA and Pathfinder
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Start-Up Companies Receive SBA Awards
Two local start-up companies received 2003
SBA Small Business Excellence Awards in ceremonies held in Syracuse
recently — Choo-Choo Charlie’s of Williamstown and Aunt
Mary’s Italian Cookies and Catering of Oswego.
Choo-Choo Charlie’s: Operation Oswego
County and the SUNY Oswego Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
selected Choo Choo Charlie’s for the award based on their
overall commitment to the Oswego County community. In 2000-01, brothers
James and Jeffrey Radley built a new 1,600 square foot building
on the corner of state Routes 104 and 13 in the town of Williamstown.
By the fall of 2001, Choo Choo Charlie’s convenience store
opened its doors providing grocery items as well as fuel and homemade
pizza to its customers.
According to the award citation, the Radleys
have made "tremendous personal sacrifices over the last three
years and have exhibited the highest professional conduct in readying
themselves for this business venture. Their strong work ethic, positive
attitude and clear marketing approach to their business plan also
helped to solidify their entrepreneurial success. As a result, they
not only met their sales projection of $1 million for 2002, but
they have exceeded their original employment goal of seven employees."
Currently, Choo Choo Charlie’s employs 10.
Aunt Mary’s Italian Cookies and Catering:
Mary Plummer, owner of Aunt Mary's Italian Cookies and Catering
of Oswego, received the SBA's Home-Based Business Advocate Award
for her assistance and commitment to helping new business owners.
She was recognized for her efforts in a special ceremony before
the Oswego County Legislature recently.
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