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Southern Tier cheese company announces major expansion

A $6.37-million expansion will allow a Southern Tier cheese company to go from 45 employees in a 12,000-square-foot plant to more than 200 workers in an 80,000-square-foot building.

Empire State Development announced Wednesday that Empire Speciality Cheese Co., based in Conewango Valley, will purchase and renovate the former AFA meat processing plant in Ashville in Chautauqua County.

Empire State Development Corp. gave Empire Specialty Cheese Co. $650,000 in Excelsior Job Program tax credits for the project.

“It’s a great project – 204 new jobs down in the Southern Tier, that’s big development,” said Sam Hoyt, regional president of Empire State Development Corp. “We’re taking a company that currently has 45 people and increasing that number, over five years, to 204. That’s a great win for the Southern Tier and Western New York. We think there’s great potential for growth.”

In addition to renovations to the currently vacant plant, the investment includes the purchase of new equipment and machinery. The business will move next year when the work is slated to be completed.

The business will then expand its existing product line, introduce new products and produce for multiple private labels. Also, it will go from using 225,000 pounds of milk a day to potentially a million pounds in the bigger facility.

Tony Carparco, co-owner of company, said it’s a boost for his business but also a shot in the arm for local dairy farmers.

Founded in 2000 as a manufacturer of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, Empire Specialty Cheese has outgrown its current location and can’t meet the demands of customers in its current plant.

“I’m turning customers away every week for products I can’t make because the building can’t produce it,” Carparco said. The company will retain its 45 permanent workers and add 75 more the first year. During the next five years, additional work will lead to 204 positions, such as lab techs, maintenance personnel and general laborers, he said.

Its sales office is located in Fairfield, N.J., while its manufacturing operations have been in Conewango Valley. It has clients all over the country, and they include Sysco and Restaurant Depot.

“As far our projections go, we feel if we do everything the right way, the business is going to grow tremendously over the next five years,” Carparco said.