How Fulton County’s Food Processing Industry Cluster Strategy Supports Economic Development

By Michael Reese, President and CEO, FCCRG

Regional economic development requires far-sighted vision. What one area has in abundance a neighboring region may lack. By working together we can create success for all.

Fulton County Center for Regional Growth is actively doing this in its effort to expand the county’s growing food processing industry cluster. We are courting manufacturers, packagers, and distributors of food and beverage products from all over the globe.

We have a lot to offer them:
•    Affordable land
•    Shovel-ready plants and offices
•    Plentiful water
•    An outstanding workforce
•    Excellent infrastructure
•    Proximity to major markets
•    Nearby university & commercial technology R&D centers

What’s more, we have already built the foundations of the cluster framework — the sewage, water, power, industrial centers, and business services needed for our existing base of food companies. We have created a business-ready environment for other companies looking to expand their operations. That was an important attraction for recent arrivals CG Roxanne and Pata Negra, and will be critical to our success moving forward.

What is a “Cluster?”
In economic development terms, a cluster is “a geographic concentration of interconnected companies along with their specialized suppliers and services providers.”  Companies in like industries share like needs and so clusters can increase the productivity with which companies can compete. Cluster development initiatives are an important new direction in economic policy across the U.S.  They create new markets, reduce the costs of doing business for the companies participating in them, and provide a proven approach for developing regional economic prosperity.

So, for example, at a time when many of New York’s 45 dairy counties – particularly those whose topography requires smaller farms – have suffered major declines in milk production, Fulton County’s yogurt manufacturer FAGE US and cheese manufacturer Euphrates have been creating accelerating demand in Fulton County and neighboring counties. As part of a regional planning effort, tax incentives are now in place to encourage the growth of larger dairy farms of 500 head or more across the Mohawk Valley.

Water resources are a major requirement for many food processors. Fulton County and its neighbors offer abundant, clean water at reasonable prices and can deliver it where it’s needed. These natural water resources convinced CG Roxanne to open its largest ever water-bottling facility here and are vital to other food-related companies in the area.

Likewise, sewage treatment is essential for many food companies. Fulton County has made enormous investment in supporting the unique sewage requirements critical to most food companies. As we move forward, we will continue to expand our advanced sewage treatment center to support further business growth. As other companies come to the area, Fulton County will be equally committed and creative to solving their unique sewage and waste requirements.

From Farm to Fork
Finally, food companies are attracted to Fulton County because of a growing agricultural industry across that is thriving in upstate New York, and the related demographic shift caused by younger families seeking ex-urban lifestyles where they can enjoy affordable, qualify lifestyles. Fulton County residents have affordable housing and decent schools, but they still get easy proximity to nearby cultural and sports recreations in Albany, Saratoga, and the Adirondack Mountains.

From farm to fork, Fulton County is committed to growing the cluster of related companies that make, package, and deliver food and beverage products to the world. We have the resources and the knowledge to help these companies be successful.