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Upstate Niagara to buy Southern Tier cheese plant

Buffalo-based Upstate Niagara Cooperative has agreed to buy Kraft Heinz's cheese plant in the Southern Tier, staving off the threat of a shutdown and saving a portion of its jobs.

The deal for the plant in Campbell, in Steuben County, is expected to be completed within the next 30 to 60 days. The two companies said the deal guarantees at least 125 jobs will be kept at the Campbell plant, with that total expected to rise by 50 jobs within a year. The current headcount could not be obtained from a Kraft Heinz spokesman, but a notice the company filed with the state Labor Department in late May indicated the plant had 380 employees.

The plant produces Polly-O string cheese, mozzarella cheese and other Italian cheese varieties, according to the notice filed with the state.

Upstate Niagara Cooperative will invest $10 million in new machinery and equipment, and retrain existing workers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles E. Schumer said in a joint announcement. Kraft Heinz also pledged an "ongoing investment" of $3 million to $5 million to improve and maintain the facility. Empire State Development Corp. is offering a grant of up to $5 million to assist with the ownership transition, including the purchase of machinery and equipment.

Upstate Niagara Cooperative is a farmer-owned cooperative of 360 dairy farms in Western New York.

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