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Rosina Food seeks tax break for expansion in Cheektowaga

Frozen foods maker Rosina Food Products is planning yet another expansion at its headquarters, this time for back-office functions and a test kitchen, and it's hoping Erie County taxpayers will support it.

The Cheektowaga-based manufacturer, which makes frozen pasta and related Italian-food products, wants to renovate an existing underused building to house a customer-care center, as well as its supply-chain, order-processing, research-and-development, sales and marketing departments. The company employs 30 people in those roles, and officials believe that centralizing and consolidating them together will make for more efficient communication.

Additionally, the new facility at 109 Industrial Parkway would also include a new test kitchen at which corporate chefs can prepare and present cooked foods while hosting customers in a new hospitality suite. The 9,500-square-f0ot, one-story building, constructed in 1979, is currently used to store idle manufacturing equipment.

The company has asked the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for tax breaks to support the $1.544 million project. If ECIDA approves, the company would save $17,000 in property taxes over seven years and $65,100 in sales taxes. In exchange, the company pledged to retain 29 jobs directly related to the building expansion, paying an average of $67,597 annually, and add four jobs within two years at an average salary of $50,000. That would yield a total workforce of 217 employees in Cheektowaga, plus another 167 in West Seneca.

According to ECIDA documents, the project will generate $4,700 in revenues to Erie County, the town of Cheektowaga and the West Seneca Central School District, in which the site is located. The company said it cannot do the project without the tax breaks - which amount to just 5.3 percent of the project's cost - and may consider outsourcing the entire research and test kitchen functions to Chicago if the project does not go forward.

"It is a very large investment with only intangible returns," the company said in its application. "We believe it is necessary to remain a competitive and viable business in the frozen food industry."

If approved, officials hope to start work imminently, with completion targeted for October 2017. Municipal approvals are still required.

Headquartered at 170 French Road and co-owned by Russell A. and Frank J. Corigliano, Rosina was founded in 1963 as a sausage product maker, selling its goods to neighborhood meat markets, supermarkets and restaurants from a single store in Buffalo. It's since broadened its product line significantly, and made several acquisitions since 2000 to bolster its revenues and operations, which are now concentrated at five sites in Cheektowaga and West Seneca.

It now sells frozen pre-cooked meatballs, Italian sausages, filled pasta, eggplant, entrees and pizza toppings to the retail and food-service industries, including 95 of the nation's largest supermarket chains, as well as supercenters, military commissaries, wholesale clubs and restaurants.

This is the second time this year that Rosina has pursued an expansion with taxpayer benefits. The company in March announced plans to invest $22.8 million through year-end 2018 to renovate and add to its operations with a new ravioli and pasta line in West Seneca and additional new protein-based food lines in Cheektowaga. As part of that project, the Empire State Development Corp. awarded the company up to $4 million in jobs-based incentives, on top of a prior allocation of $1.5 million in 2014.

In its ECIDA application, the company even noted that it "would like to see the same type of commitment to Rosina from the local governments that was received from New York State and that we just made to the Western New York community."

email: jepstein@buffnews.com

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