Tryon Technology Park

Fulton County, New York, introduces Tryon Technology Park, a transformative, 515-acre business opportunity in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. With Tryon’s state and local expedited approval process, you could be breaking ground on 212-acres of the lowest-priced shovel-ready land in the state in 30 to 60 days, with hundreds of additional acres available for future development.

Tryon is located in a pristine, wooded environment… where a company can thrive, take a 180 turn away from a high-cost, high-stress environment.

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead: “One thing people are starting to learn about the Tryon Technology Park is it’s right in New York’s Technology Triangle, and it’s within striking distance and easy reach of 70 million customers all around the Northeast.”

Fulton County’s Targeted Industry Analysis identified seven Industry Clusters for Tryon compatible with existing businesses and the site’s resources: Biomedical R&D, Food & Beverage, Headquarters & Business Services, Health Care Products & Services, Electronics, Renewable Energy and Software & Media.

Tryon Technology Park’s first tenant was Vireo Health, which purchased 20 acres in 2015 to manufacture pharmaceuticals from cannabis. In less than a year, it doubled the size of its facility.

Josh O’Neill, Vireo Health, Chief Business Development Officer: “When you look at the value of the land, with all the infrastructure in place, we could not find anything better in the state of New York. It’s highly accessible from I-90 and other major highways. It’s got great infrastructure. There’s new water and sewer, gas, three-phase power and a new county road that’s well-maintained year-round.”

Jim Mraz, Fulton County Planning Director and Executive Director, Fulton County Industrial Development Agency:
“The property at Tryon is also very affordable. At a $20,000 per an acre price, it is the lowest price per acre of comparable land anywhere in the region.”

The origins of Tryon are a unique story of cooperation by state and local governments. When the state closed the Tryon Juvenile Detention Facility in 2011, it was an economic blow to Fulton County.

In an effort to turn that negative into a positive, Fulton County officials petitioned the state for control of the property. Two years later, Tryon was deeded over to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency for redevelopment as a technology park.

Josh O’Neill, Vireo Health, Chief Business Development Officer: “It’s a beautiful place. A really great community. I feel like Fulton County as a whole has been very welcoming to our business and the people who have moved here from other states, they’ve found it to be a really high quality of life. They’ve found good, affordable housing. The feedback on the schools has been very positive. We’ve got a lot of young families on our team and for them to locate to Fulton County from other states was a big step for them and it’s been an extremely positive experience.”

At the center of the park is the Tryon Regional Business Training and Incubator Center, adding training, classroom, office and workshop space for businesses to utilize. Tryon also has the benefit of being geographically close to its partner in training and workforce development, Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

Dr. Dustin Swanger, President, Fulton-Montgomery Community College: “FM has a long history of strong workforce development programs and customizing programs for local businesses, like Benjamin Moore and Townsend Leather.”

Tim Beckett, senior vice president, Townsend Leather:
“We continually rely on them for training, customized classes, and working with our people to help further our staff in growth here in the area.
Fulton County as a whole, any time we’ve needed anything, in terms of economic growth or sustaining our workforce or bringing in new business, they’ve been a good person to rely on and go to for grants, money, even locations and building and equipment.”

Fulton County hosts a vibrant array of biomedical manufacturers, global food processors and light manufacturing companies in three existing business parks. Adding Tryon to that portfolio creates unparalleled advantages for companies searching for an inviting, centrally located home with plug and play infrastructure.

Contact us today to find out more about Tryon Technology Park.
Fulton County New York – Positive.

Fulton County pushing tech park: The Daily Gazette

Originally published in The Daily Gazette

— When Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the Tryon Juvenile Detention Facility in 2011, Fulton County and the surrounding area lost 325 jobs and an estimated $15,000,000 in wages spent in the local economy, according to an estimate from the county planning department.

The Gloversville Water Dept. and the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Plant also lost a combined $170,000 in annual revenue, they said.

But while similar youth detention facilities across the state were shuttered and remained closed, officials in Fulton County had something different in mind for the Tryon facility. They asked the state to turn the property over to them so they could convert it into a business park.

“Fulton County government took the initiative,” said James Mraz, Executive Director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency. “After a couple years worth of back and forth this entire facility was deeded over to the county’s industrial development agency.”

The county, through a combination of grants and matching funds, has so far put over $4 million into the site. They built a ring access road throughout the 515-acre shovel-ready site, known as the Tryon Technology Park, as well as a 300,000-gallon water tower and pump station to improve water pressure and supply.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks over drying marijuana plant at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Their plan is to tear down nearly all of the many structures that were part of the detention facility, save for one 15,000-square-foot facility they hope to convert into a regional business training and incubator center. That facility, said Mraz, will help new businesses get off the ground and provide space for them to try out ideas.

Mraz said county officials felt the site would make a good business park because of its proximity to New York’s interstate system and the presence of existing utility hookups.

“There’s already gas, electric, water and sewer service here,” said Mraz. “When you’re developing shovel-ready sites that’s usually the biggest cost, is getting that infrastructure, which is integral to developing the site. It was already here.”

He also touted the county’s access to markets.

“Because of our proximity to interstates, this county, a four-hour drive in any direction has access 70 million potential customers, and that’s huge,” said Mraz, pointing to retail giant Wal-Mart opening a food distribution center in the Johnstown industrial park as evidence of Fulton County’s advantageous location.

“They did it for a reason,” he said. “Strategically it was centrally located to a geographic area that they wanted to serve and could serve given the interstate system here. Our proximity to markets is as good if not better than most other areas.”

Mraz also touted the relative remoteness of Tryon Technology Park as an asset.

“It’s a very peaceful campus setting. So part of our marketing strategy is we’re saying ‘come here, take a 180 degree turn away from a high-cost, high-stress business life,’” he said.

“We think it’s a positive thing. And that’s how we’re trying to market it.”

Selling prospective businesses on the property is something Mraz, who doubles as the county’s planning director, said is a daily task for him and other officials.

“That’s a work task that we’re on every day,” said Mraz. “This business is very competitive.”

Mraz said the county is courting a prospect now that’s looking at sites all over the northeast.

“So every time we’re competing against other great sites, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” he said. “I can’t say when we’re going to have [tenants]; all I can say is every day we’re trying.”

The Tryon Tech Park already has one tenant, Vireo Health of New York, which is one of the few companies allowed to grow and manufacture medical cannabis for use by patients in New York.

Vireo’s scientific director Eric Greenbaum said on a recent tour of the facility that the company is one of just five allowed to operate in the state, and while regulations in New York are more stringent than in other states, he sees a bright future for the industry in the state.

Greenbaum said New York’s marijuana program is a “really medical model” as opposed to more recreation-based models in Colorado and California, which could actually greatly help the medical cannabis industry nationwide to serve patients as opposed to casual users.

“[New York’s] is a model that in my opinion will serve as the template for a federal regulatory framework similar to what the FDA would do,” said Greenbaum. “Compared to California, where the medical model is basically a proxy for adult and recreational use…the fact that we don’t sell [marijuana bud], we only sell carefully formulated medicines…it’s just indicative of the approach that New York is taking.”

Vireo provides customers with carefully formulated medicines in three different forms, said Greenbaum: oil (for vaporizing), a capsule or an oral solution. The company has five brands that run the gamut from having very high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations and very low cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations, and vice versa.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday.

Head Cultivator Chris Schmitt looks at buds of marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

 Cannabidiol is a compound that is useful for seizure disorders as well as pain, said Greenbaum. It’s also been shown to mitigate the sometimes dysphoric effects of THC, which can include paranoia and anxiousness.

THC is the chemical produced by the glands of a marijuana plant that is most responsible for the euphoric effect – or high – found in users.

Greenbaum said the company settled at Tryon Technology Park as part of the licensing agreement it struck with the state, but that he and Vireo CEO Kyle Kingsley are native New Yorkers who are passionate about jumpstarting local economies wherever they can in the state.

“We knew that the state was really focused on repurposing this facility; we knew there was a commitment to building up the Tryon Technology Park to be a center for tech development as well as job growth for this region,” said Greenbaum.

And while the state’s regulation of medical cannabis is a bit strict now, said Greenbaum, there’s reason to believe it will broaden in the near future.

“It’s a pretty limited patient market right now; there’s been some discussion with the legislators and regulators to expand some of the qualifying patient conditions to include chronic pain,” said Greenbaum. “Chronic pain is one of the indications for which we have the most evidence of efficacy with medical cannabis. So we’re hoping that that goes through. We think it will be really good for the people of New York.”

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Tech Park in Perth on Thursday.

Marijuana plants at Vireo Health at Tryon Technology Park in Perth on Thursday. PETER R. BARBER, GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Greenbaum said Vireo is “optimistic” the regulations will be expanded within the next quarter.

“Not that we’ll be able to implement it, but we’re optimistic we’ll see an announcement within the next 90 days,” said Greenbaum. Relaxing them, he said, would “open up access a lot, and will be good for growth and patients as well.”

And growth is what county officials are hoping for as well with the Tryon Technology Park. Mraz said the capital projects at the site are in their final stages, and the way in which the county has been able to repurpose what would have become an abandoned property is a unique and inspiring way to create more jobs and commerce in the area.

“It’s just going to take some time,” he said.

Reach Gazette reporter Dan Fitzsimmons at 852-9605, dfitzsimmons@dailygazette.net or@DanFitzsimmons on Twitter.

Agenda set for export seminar

Export seminar sponsored by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and TD Bank
td-bank-logoFCCRGlogoCMYK

Growth Strategies:
Expanding Your Business Internationally

Holiday Inn Johnstown-Gloversville
November 15, 2016

This export seminar includes networking and learning opportunities about potential markets, logistics, available export financing and cutting through red tape while establishing new lines of business between Fulton County, New York, and the world.

8:30 a.m.
Networking and Registration (Continental Breakfast)

9:00 a.m.
Welcome 

  • Ronald Peters, President & CEO, Fulton County Center for Regional Growth
  • Robert Davey, Regional Vice President for Upstate NY, TD Bank

9:10
Managing Payments and Finalizing the Sale

  • Strategies and options for sending and receiving money from overseas – Maria Aldrete, Director of Foreign Exchange Services, TD Securities LLC
  • Strategies for boosting international sales, managing risk and structuring transactions that benefit both buyers and sellers - Andrea Ratay, Vice President, Global Trade Finance, TD Bank

10:00 a.m.
Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Discussion with Moderator

  • Supply Chain management: How to move your products internationally with efficiency and strategies to address some of the challenges facing companies – Tom Valentine, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Mainfreight USA and Carl Erickson, Director of Supply Chain, Plug Power Inc.

10:30 a.m.
Getting Ready to Export: Federal & State Assistance

  • Export Assistance from the federal government- Toni Corsini, NY/NJ Regional Manager, Office of International Trade, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Export Assistance from the state governmentEdward Kowalewski, Director of International Investment Programs & Private Sector Liaison to the World Bank,  Empire State Development

11:00 a.m.
Legal Environment of Exporting/Importing:

  • How to protect your intellectual property and what to be mindful of from a legal perspective David Miranda, Attorney, Heslin, Rothenberg, Farley & Mesiti P.C.

11:30 a.m.
Break and Networking

12:00 p.m.
Lunch

12:30 p.m.
Special Guest Speaker 

  • Current state of U.S. and Global Economic Landscape – Implications for importers and  exporters– Brittany Baumann, Economist & Macro Strategist, TD Securities LLC

1:00  p.m. Final Words

  • Cedric Carter, Vice President & Senior Relationship Manager, TD Bank

                                                                               fc-positivefultonmontgomeryconnectedforbusinesslogo

Nov. 15 date set for export financing symposium in Fulton County

A symposium on how local companies can expand their sales to foreign markets has been scheduled for Nov. 15 by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth

The export symposium, entitled “Growth Strategies: Expanding Your Business Internationally,” is designed to demonstrate to companies that may be interested in settling in the area that Fulton County entrepreneurs and economic development officials have the products, willingness and capability for increased trade in foreign markets. Networking opportunities and communicating about available financing, loan packages and cutting through red tape will be among the event’s priorities.

FCCRG President and CEO Ron Peters said Fulton County sees positive potential for increased foreign trade from a local base, and expects at least 40 business representatives to attend the Nov. 15 symposium, at the Holiday Inn at Johnstown.

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan  FCCRG President Ron Peters

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
FCCRG President Ron Peters

Registration starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by a welcoming from Peters and Robert Davey, regional vice president for upstate TD Bank. Brittany Baumann, senior economist and macro strategist for TD Securities LLC, will give a presentation on the current state of the U.S. and global “economic landscape,” and the implications for importers and exporters.

Other topics at the export financing event include:

  • Managing Payments and Finalizing the Sale
  • Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Getting Ready to Export: Federal & State Assistance
  • Legal Environment of Exporting/Importing

Cedric Carter, TD Bank’s vice president and senior relationship manager, will be the final speaker of the conference in the afternoon.

An additional sponsor of the event is Empire State Development’s Global NY initiative. Global NY is an initiative launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to offer “one-stop shopping to both foreign businesses looking to invest in New York and to local businesses who want to export globally.”

Fulton County is ideally situated for the production and transportation of goods bound for international markets. Three interstate highways provide quick and direct access to New York City, Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia, as well as the deep-water Port of Albany and Albany International Airport. In fact, there are 21 international airports within a four-hour drive of Fulton County.

In March, Townsend Leather of Johnstown became the only company in the Mohawk Valley to hold Foreign Trade Zone status from the U.S. Department of Commerce. It was the first new designation in Fulton County since 1996. Foreign-Trade Zone #121, which allows individual businesses to apply to have their facilities designated as international commerce zones. In these federally approved areas (industrial parks or individual manufacturing or distribution facilities) materials can be imported without the payment of U.S. Customs duties as long as the goods stay in the FTZ.  Once the goods leave the FTZ for U.S. consumption, reduced tariffs are available. FTZ sites remain within the jurisdiction of local and state governments, but are subject to spot checks and periodic inspections by Customs.

 

Growing Industry

Marijuana ready for harvest at Vireo Health in Tryon Technology Park

September 26, 2016, By MICHAEL ANICH, Reprinted from the Leader Herald0926 Mon Story greenhouse

PERTH – The pistils, or hairs of the plants, are ready. The resin and THC levels appear to be in peak condition.

It’s time to harvest marijuana plants at the Tryon Technology Park.

“We’re going to start harvesting next week,” Vireo Health of New York, LLC Chief Horticulturist Chuck Schmitt said Wednesday.

Vireo Health – the park’s only and first full-time business – is due to begin harvesting its cannabis plants this week to produce batches of legal medical marijuana products for the public. The firm employs 20 people, mostly with scientific, horticulture and plant biology backgrounds.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum shows off some of the Vireo Health equipment used to procss medical marijuana at the Tryon Technology Park in the town of Perth.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum shows off some of the Vireo Health equipment used to process medical marijuana at the Tryon Technology Park in the town of Perth.

Fulton County and Vireo Health officials on Wednesday took area media on a tour of Vireo Health’s new operation – a curiously sophisticated and highly-protected cannabis growth building sanctioned by New York state. The new company provides medical marijuana – mainly in the form of vapor and capsules. Such firms also produce medical cannabis oral tinctures and syringes to Empire State-sanctioned dispensaries.

The new Tryon Technology Park is owned by the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency.

“Vireo came to us last year, in the spring of 2015,” says IDA Executive Director James Mraz. “This was a central location.”


“When you look at where Fulton County is located in the state, from a logistics standpoint, it’s at a convenient location to different parts of the state. There is a tremendous amount of [employment] talent in the Capital District.” –Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung


In 2014, New York state adopted the Compassionate Care Act that authorized the growing of medical cannabis to manufacture medicines to administer to patients with debilitating diseases. Vireo Health was one of five companies issued a license, retrofitting an existing 21,000-square-foot building.

Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung agreed Friday his company was attracted to the location.

“When you look at where Fulton County is located in the state, from a logistics standpoint. it’s at a convenient location to different parts of the state,” Hoffnung said. “There is a tremendous amount of [employment] talent in the Capital District.”

Hoffnung said Vireo Health is a “professionally-run operation” that will only gain more support as time goes on.

“Fulton County is an efficient place to build a plant,” he said.

Schmitt, who led Wednesday’s tour, showed off medical medical marijuana production from start to finish. The extraction process goes from seedlings to bricks of smaller plants to larger, more mature plants in the company’s new greenhouse. The cannabis is eventually processed into the medical marijuana used by patients.

Temperature, humidity and moisture controls are closely monitored throughout the process. Light, whether it’s blue-green or orange, are appropriately used for growing. Vireo Health recaptures and reuses its roof rainwater throughout the process. Security is also very tight at Vireo Health.

“It’s a continuous process,” Schmitt said. “This is a very unique [operation].”

The Vireo Health building has five “flowering” rooms, with Schmitt showing off the vibrant sticky strains of the plants known as the pistils. One of the rooms has 300 plants growing.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich Vireo Health Chief Horticulturalist Chuck Schmitt checks out some cannabis seedlings Wednesday at the Tryon Technology Park.

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Vireo Health Chief Horticulturalist Chuck Schmitt checks out some cannabis seedlings Wednesday at the Tryon Technology Park.

Temperatures are generally kept warm in the growing rooms, as high as 85 degrees. In the 20,000-square-foot greenhouse, Schmitt shows the tour the 2,000 more mature plants, already from four to eight feet high and ready to harvest. Those plants have the higher concentrations of THC, the compound obtained from cannabis that is the primary intoxicant in marijuana.

The pharmacological process pulls out the useful parts of the marijuana plant to make its medicine.

Vireo Health eventually plans to build a second and third-greenhouse, Schmitt said.

Company Scientific Director Eric Greenbaum says a state lab eventually does a third party canniabinoid testing on Vireo Health’s product before it can be shipped out to the licensed dispensaries.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

Export symposium planned in Fulton County NY

The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth has begun preliminary work on organizing a fall symposium in Fulton County to help local businesses take advantage of opportunities for selling their products in foreign markets.

Townsend Leather Design showroom in Fulton County NY

Custom leather manufacturer Townsend Leather gained the Mohawk Valley’s sole Foreign Trade Zone designation this year at its Fulton County, NY, production facility. The FCCRG is planning an export symposium in the fall to help local businesses take advantage of foreign trade opportunities.

The export symposium will focus not only on encouraging small and large local companies to expand their sales markets, but also on demonstrating international trade opportunities to companies that may be interested in settling in Fulton County.

With initial sponsorship and participation by Empire State Development’s Global NY initiative and at least one Capital Region bank, CRG President Ron Peters is planning a one day symposium in the first half of October. Global NY is an initiative launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to offer “one-stop shopping to both foreign businesses looking to invest in New York and to local businesses who want to export globally.”

The event will focus on understanding and accessing available financing and loan packages, cutting through red tape and making connections. Peters said he also plans to approach Montgomery County economic development officials about participating in the event, with the goal of having representatives from at least 30 businesses involved.

Fulton County is ideally situated for the production and transportation of goods bound for international markets. Three interstate highways provide quick and direct access to New York City, Montreal, Boston and Philadelphia, as well as the deep-water Port of Albany and Albany International Airport. In fact, there are 21 international airports within a four-hour drive of Fulton County.

Fulton County is also part of Foreign-Trade Zone #121, which allows individual businesses to apply to have their facilities designated as international commerce zones. In these federally approved areas (industrial parks or individual manufacturing or distribution facilities) materials can be imported without the payment of U.S. Customs duties as long as the goods stay in the FTZ.  Once the goods leave the FTZ for U.S. consumption, reduced tariffs are available. FTZ sites remain within the jurisdiction of local and state governments, but are subject to spot checks and periodic inspections by Customs.

In March 2016, Townsend Leather became the first Fulton County company to receive Foreign Trade Zone status from the U.S. Department of Commerce since a former eyeglass manufacturer achieved FTZ status in 1996. Townsend’s FTZ designation – the only one currently active in the Mohawk Valley – allows the custom leather manufacturer to avoid paying tariffs before shipping in raw leather and chemicals from outside the U.S. to its Townsend Avenue plant, as well as take advantage of reduced levies on custom leathers it sells in the United States using materials sourced overseas.

Townsend employs more than 140 people in Fulton County to create high-quality and custom leathers for aviation, hospitality, residential, yachting and other specialty-end uses.

Corporate site selector Michael Mullis of JM Mullis, Inc. has called the Fulton Montgomery Region a prime area for businesses looking for a New York location because of the transportation infrastructure and availability of shovel-ready sites and natural resources.

Specific dates, locations and seminars for the symposium will be available as they are finalized at FCCRG.org.

 

 

Times Union: NY yogurt industry uses clout

Read Story in Albany Times Union
Reprinted here with permission

NY yogurt industry, including Chobani, plays its D.C. cards

Chobani, other makers, have friends in high places in jobs move
By Dan Freedman, Times Union
Saturday, July 4, 2015

Excerpt:

And although Greek yogurt by itself isn’t enough to totally lift New York’s dairy industry out of the doldrums, its milk-intensive production process has given farmers and milk producers a needed cushion against the vagaries of supply and demand.

In the key period between 2008 and 2013, milk used to make yogurt in New York went from 158 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds, a seven-fold increase. The state saw a 2 percent rise in milk production last year, and it went from being the nation’s No. 4 dairy state in 2012 to No. 3 today.

Washington

When Russia blocked delivery of creamy Chobani Greek yogurt to the Sochi Winter Olympics last year, both of New York’s senators swung into action.

Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand phoned anyone and everyone who could help free up the 5,000 single-serve containers in cold storage atNewark Liberty Airport in New Jersey.

“Chobani Yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes and media workers,” Schumer said in a news release.

Yogurt factory worker upstate New York

(Brady Dillsworth/Bloomberg)

Ultimately, time ran out and the yogurt was donated to food banks in the New York metropolitan area. Schumer called it “a silver — or gold — lining.”

Although unsuccessful, the effort illustrated the appeal of upstate New York’s Greek yogurt industry in general, and Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya in particular, to Washington’s political world.

Practically unheard of a decade ago, Greek yogurt has taken the dairy-consumer world by storm, from about 2.5 percent of yogurt sales in 2008 to nearly 36 percent this year. And the bulk of the industry is in the upstate dairy belt. Among them: Chobani in South Edmeston, Chenango County; Fage in Johnstown, Fulton County, Muller Quaker Dairy in Batavia, Genesee County; and Buffalo-based Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., which markets as Upstate Farms.

For the state, Greek yogurt is more than just a success story. It’s a win-win tale of economic redemption, the industrial phoenix risen from the ashes of closed-down factories in small- and medium-sized towns and cities across the state.

From 2011 to 2014, the job count at New York’s dairy manufacturers rose by 1,500 to 9,570, according to data from the state Department of Labor. In the same time frame, overall manufacturing jobs in New York dropped by 1 percent. Chobani employs more than 1,000 at its plant and in an office suite in nearby Norwich.

And although Greek yogurt by itself isn’t enough to totally lift New York’s dairy industry out of the doldrums, its milk-intensive production process has given farmers and milk producers a needed cushion against the vagaries of supply and demand.

In the key period between 2008 and 2013, milk used to make yogurt in New York went from 158 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds, a seven-fold increase. The state saw a 2 percent rise in milk production last year, and it went from being the nation’s No. 4 dairy state in 2012 to No. 3 today.

Ulukaya’s own story embodies the entire industry’s aspirations, and goes a long way toward explaining the 43-year-old Chobani founder’s appeal to political figures.

Yogurt truck at milk tanks, upstate New York

Heather Ainsworth/The New York Times)

An ethnically Kurdish immigrant from Eastern Turkey, Ulukaya arrived in the U.S. in 1994 with little other than ambition to live the American dream and memories of the thick, delicious yogurt he grew up eating. In 2005, he received a junk mail flier advertising sale of a closed Kraft yogurt plant in the South Edmeston-New Berlin area. An $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration’s Albany office helped him buy the plant in 2005 and he began testing and marketing his Greek-style yogurt.

He named it Chobani, Turkish for “shepherd,” and shipped the first batch to supermarkets in 2007. Five years later, Chobani was booking more than $1 billion in sales.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to get in on the act.

“This is a new day,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in convening a “yogurt summit” in Albany in 2012. One booster, state Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, said the “yogurt empire” was New York state agriculture’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley.

“It’s an astonishing story … it’s an amazing story … it’s breathtaking,” effused former President Bill Clinton during a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative panel discussion featuring Ulukaya.

In the discussion, Ulukaya extolled the virtues of starting up a manufacturing plant in small-town New York. “If you’re a start-up, you don’t have to be in a big city” like New York of San Francisco, he said. “You could be in small town and still be cool.”

worker inspecting yogurt containers in upstate New York

(Heather Ainsworth/The New York Times)

Workers in the South Edmeston-New Berlin area “are proud of the product they’re making,” he said. “They’re part of the story.” Chobani boasts of giving 10 percent of its profits to charitable causes and funding projects, from a local little league ball field to assistance for refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economics professor at Cornell University who has studied Chobani and the Greek yogurt industry, said, “It’s a genuine American story that a Turkish-Kurdish immigrant could become rich selling Greek yogurt. The cultural ironies of that are amazing.”

With encouragement from Schumer and Gillibrand, Ulukaya and other New York Greek yogurt players entered the Washington fray in 2012. They wanted to get into the USDA’s $15 billion school lunch, breakfast and summer food programs.

But access to those programs is more than just a matter of a senator making a phone call to the secretary of agriculture. Federal regulations spell out a lengthy bureaucratic process for gaining admission.

Ulukaya and Chobani took the lead, enlisting a lobbying firm, Cornerstone Government, and the National Yogurt Association to help them through the technicalities. Agriculture experts on the staffs of Gillibrand and Schumer pitched in as well.

Collectively, they helped Chobani and the industry as a whole navigate through requirements such as getting a “Commercial Item Description” for yogurt.

Ultimately, the process yielded an 11-page document that doesn’t include the word “Greek” but does specify a “high-protein” style that is “strained” —a reference to Greek yogurt’s process, which requires 3 pounds of milk for every pound of yogurt, which is triple the ratio for regular yogurt.

As chronicled in Schumer’s news releases, the USDA in 2013 committed to a pilot program in New York and three other states to testing Greek yogurt’s acceptance in subsidized school-meal programs.

In 2014, USDA expanded the pilot to a total of 12 states. In April, it announced Greek yogurt would be an option for schools nationwide.

Schumer and Gillibrand are accustomed to advocating for New York businesses. But each said that Greek yogurt represented a special case of a nutritious product gaining wide acceptance and bringing employment to economically depressed portions of upstate, as well as a lifeline to dairy farmers.

“When Greek yogurt first appeared, I said to myself, ‘This is an opportunity to help dairy,'” Schumer said. “I met with the heads of Fage and Chobani and said, ‘What (can) I do to help?'”

yogurt factory production line worker

(Brady Dillsworth/Bloomberg)

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee who’s well-versed in the intricacies of dairy, said the Greek yogurt story appealed to her as the mother of two young children.

Gillibrand said her oldest child, 11-year-old Theo, takes a Chobani serving to school as part of lunch; she stocks it in her Senate office refrigerator.

“If you travel across upstate, you’ll see we’ve lost a lot of small dairies over past decade,” she said. “This is one answer to that reduction. Greek yogurt is very much a symbol of ‘Made in America.'”

Not all of Greek yogurt’s attempts to penetrate Washington’s walls have been successful. The two senators plus the Yogurt Association and Cornerstone have worked on getting USDA to recognize Greek yogurt’s protein boost and give it more generous crediting toward fulfillment of the school programs’ nutrition requirements.

The formula is complicated, but with a “crediting standard” adjustment to reflect its higher protein content compared to traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt would prove to be more affordable for school food service managers.

So far, the USDA has turned them down.

In a letter to Gillibrand last year, the USDA said giving Greek yogurt extra credit for higher protein would be “inconsistent” with crediting “similar foods in a uniform manner” — in other words: If they do it for one, they’d have to do it for all.

For Chobani, access to USDA school meal programs so far has not been hugely profitable.

“We did not put it through the lens of profit and loss, black and white, like a big food company would do,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing officer for Chobani. “We looked at it as the right thing to do for kids in America.”

By some accounts, Chobani has become the victim of its own success. Industry titans like Dannon and Yoplait have responded with Greek yogurts of their own, diminishing Chobani’s market domination.

Chobani got financing from a private equity fund that, according to some news reports, was pressuring Ulukaya to step aside for a new CEO more accustomed to running a worldwide operation.

McGuinness dismissed the stories and said, “Our best days are yet to come.”

Chobani’s growth is up year-by-year and its curve this year is ahead of projections, he said. The company plans to unveil 15 new products in the next two weeks.

Ulukaya “remains and will continue to be chairman and CEO,” McGuinness added.

According to lobbying disclosure reports on file on Capitol Hill, Chobani since 2012 has spent $420,000 on Cornerstone, which bills itself as a bipartisan firm whose lobbyists have deep experience in federal agencies and congressional offices.

But just last month, Chobani abruptly severed its ties with Cornerstone.

“While we are disappointed to no longer be representing Chobani, the Cornerstone team, in addition to thoroughly enjoying the consumption of Chobani’s fine products over the last three years, is proud of our work assisting the company in advancing their public policy goals,” said lead Cornerstone lobbyist Jim Richards, who previously served in the USDA during the George W. Bush administration and worked for Republican chairmen of the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee.

Renovating the Lobby

Since 2013, Chobani also has spent $90,000 on Liz Robbins Associates, whose namesake is a veteran lobbyist best known for her close ties to the Clintons. Robbins has donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation and accompanied Bill and Chelsea Clinton on a nine-day trip in April to Africa.

The Clintons have been guests at Robbins’ home in East Hampton on Long Island, and Bill and Hillary Clinton gave Robbins hugs at a 2013 SeriousFun Children’s Network event honoring her.

It is not clear what, if any, lobbying work Robbins has done for Chobani. A log of Gillibrand’s visitors in Washington shows a 2013 meeting with Chobani CFO Jim McConeghy, in which Cornerstone’s Richards also participated. The same log yielded no comparable meeting involving Robbins.

Robbins did not respond to interview requests.

Asked whether hiring Robbins was a way to maintain relations with the Clintons, McGuinness said, “There’s no connection there.”

But others in New York’s political circles say ultimately that link could prove beneficial.

“What smarter move is there than hiring someone close to the Clintons?” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran lobbyist and political consultant based in New York City.

“Being effective requires relationships and she has the one the company will need should Secretary Clinton become president.”

dan@hearstdc.com • @danfreedma

 

Why Companies Should Consider Upstate New York’s Fulton and Montgomery Counties

New York’s Fulton County and Montgomery County are truly rich in resources for business and industry. This central New York area offers unique opportunities for manufacturing, research, warehousing and distribution operations and is very attractive to companies who are reshoring operations after years of investment abroad:

  • A 21st century workforce
  • Accessibility via road to vital northeast markets
  • Port access in Albany for international transport
  • Ample water, milk and agricultural resources
  • Affordable ex-urban quality of life
  • Affordable real estate
  • Shovel-ready sites for businesses large and small

Ample Choices for Businesses Large and Small
Fulton County, NY is home to manufacturing and/or distributing operations for companies as diverse as U.S. retailers Walmart, Greek manufacturer FAGE Yogurt, Euphrates Cheese, French bottler C.G. Roxane, Spanish charcutier Pata Negra, and the global headquarters of medical device manufacturer Epimed International and pharmaceutical manufacturer Vireo Health.

FULTON COUNTY WITHIN NYSThe county currently has three shovel-ready business parks with readily available natural gas, electric, water, sewer, heavy-duty road network, direct wire to police and fire protection, close proximity to state-of-the-art landfill, and fiber optic telecommunications:

  • Crossroads Business Park offers a campus-like setting featuring modern infrastructure and natural beauty. Average acres per lot are 3.2; with custom facility construction available in sizes ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.
  • Crossroads Industrial Park features 3-acre lot average sizes and is a perfect location for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and food processing.
  • Johnstown Industrial Park lots average 6 acres and are also ideal for manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and food processing.

Also coming on line in 2014 is the new 515-acre Tryon Technology Park on County Highway 107. Formerly home to a juvenile detention facility, New York State agreed in February 2012 to turn the site over to the Fulton County Industrial development Agency for economic development.

Positive Reviews by Site Consultant J. M. Mullis
According to J.M. Mullis CEO Michael Mullis, who has worked with Fulton and Montgomery Counties in the past and toured the region in early September 2013, this region has a lot to offer businesses looking for a great New York location. Mullis noted, “There’s not a state in the union with a more diverse workforce and more knowledge than New York. But few people realize the riches available in the Fulton and Montgomery County area.”

“When companies think about the northeast they think Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York State,” Mullin continued at a briefing following his tour. “Within New York, they usually are aware of New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Binghamton, and nothing in between.”

According to Mullis, the region offers outstanding:

  • Transportation infrastructure. Nearby major roadways offer ready access to Montreal, New York, Boston, and points west. Also nearby are deep-water port access and a highly functional international airport.  Rail-spur options are under review.
  • Energy. Fresh water and wastewater treatment options are plentiful.
  • Permitting. The state process is very good, and local officials work collaboratively to make permitting as easy as possible.
  • Incentives. State and local economic development entities understand the importance of incentives to offset local tax burdens to businesses.
  • Quality of life. The location offers affordable housing, rural beauty, and nearby access to cultural centers like Saratoga, the Berkshires, and the Capital Region, as well as to the vast outdoor recreational resources of the Adirondack Mountains and Mohawk Valley.
  • Proximity to research technology centers like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, CUNY, SUNY, and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
  • Workforce. There is ample workforce to call on in the region, and 21st century workforce readiness efforts by The CEO Roundtable and Fulton Montgomery Community College have brought advanced manufacturing and other critical training resources to the region.
  • Shovel-ready sites including three in Fulton County and one in Montgomery County.

Mullis also noted that the new Tryon site will be unique in the state. “This is one of the region’s greatest marketing assets,” he explained. “It’s the best property I’ve seen in New York State. It has the topography access, buildings, and acreage that will appeal to major companies. It’s all there, including a backup power generator, $5 million worth of barbed wire security fencing, and a road network that is amply sufficient for most companies.”

The Best Time is Now
This is a great time to invest in your company’s future in upstate New York. Contact FCCRG for information on how we can help you with:

  • Building stock and land
  • Identifying and navigating financing options
  • Providing consulting services
  • Real estate management and development
  • Marketing services

Contact Fulton County Center for Regional Growth at 518-725-7700.

Yusen Trucking Expands Its Presence in Fulton County

Yusen Logistics LogoThe Center for Regional Growth recently signed a two-year lease with California-based Yusen Logistics (America) Inc. for most of the 113,400-square-foot former Finkle Distributors building at the Johnstown Industrial Park, beginning May 1.

California-based Yusen Logistics is a worldwide trucking-warehousing company providing air and ocean freight plus truck services. They have been operating locally from a building they purchased from NYK Logistics in the Johnstown Industrial Park at 123 Union Ave. Ext. They will now vacate that smaller facility and move into 90,000 square feet of Finkle’s former building at 160 Enterprise Drive.

Michael Reese, president and chief executive officer of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, said the company will use about 90,000 square feet of the former Finkle Distributors building at 160 Enterprise Drive. The company previously purchased NYK Logistics in the Johnstown Industrial Park at 123 Union Ave. Ext.

CRG Board of Directors Chairman Dusty Swanger told the Leader Herald that the move is a positive one for the county.  “We’re certainly delighted that they needed the space and that they’re moving into a larger facility,” Swanger said. “It’s good that they’re staying in Fulton County.”