With Tootsie Roll's announcement that it will soon open a distribution center in Humboldt Industrial Park, the food services industry cluster in Greater Hazleton continues to grow.
"Companies in the food services and food-processing industry find that the Hazleton area is the perfect location for many reasons, including our strategic location, competitive operating environment, highly rated workforce and the availability of training programs," said CAN DO Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joseph Lettiere.
The cluster in CAN DO's industrial parks consists of companies such as General Mills, Hershey Foods, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Cargill Meat Solutions, Entenmann's and Stroehmann's bakeries, Gonnella Frozen Products, U.S. Cold Storage and Romark Logistics, in addition to other food packaging and food transportation businesses.
"Many of the employees we have hired have come to us with very similar food service experience. Logistically, the area is perfect for distribution to the eastern portion of the country," said Gonnella Frozen Products Plant Manager Jim Byerly.
"We continue to see more companies come to this area and look forward to the progress it will bring for the people and community."
"CAN DO keeps us well informed of what's going on and as we mature as a facility, we look forward to taking advantage of all Greater Hazleton has to offer," Byerly said.
More water, sewage capacity
As another benefit to companies in the food-processing industry, CAN DO is expanding both the water and sewer systems within Humboldt Industrial Park. To better serve the growing needs of the industrial park, CAN DO is doubling the capacity of its wastewater treatment facility. This expansion will increase CAN DO's sewage treatment facility to 1 million gallons per day and completely modernize its operation. For larger capacity requirements, Humboldt Industrial Park North is served by the Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority, which boasts an 8.9 million-gallon-per-day treatment facility.
Additionally, CAN DO recently strengthened its partnership with the Hazleton City (water) Authority. In an effort to supplement the capacity of the current water system, CAN DO will be purchasing a minimum of 200,000 gallons per day from the local water authority, which will provide additional water for new and existing industries. Furthermore, the water authority has agreed to work with users who have large water requirements.
"We know that businesses in many industries, especially food service, have specific water and sewer requirements for their operations," Lettiere said. "Through our partnerships with both the Hazleton City (water) Authority and the Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority, along with the upgrades to the CAN DO water and sewer systems, we should be able to accommodate the needs of any food-processing operation that would choose to locate to Humboldt Industrial Park."
Partnerships bring industries, organizations together
Several food-processing partnerships are also in place throughout Greater Hazleton to assist companies with a variety of needs, including workforce development and training programs.
One of them, the STARS (Strategic Teams Accelerating Regional Stimuli) program, was launched to bring colleges and universities together with business and industry representatives to help them identify joint areas of interest and how they can work together, explained Ken Okrepkie, assistant regional manager at Ben Franklin Technology Partners and founder of the STARS program through the Great Valley Technology Alliance.
"This region is rich with food services and food-processing companies, which is why we began a food-processing initiative through STARS," Okrepkie said. Often, the industries can use their combined strengths to achieve more than they would on their own.
Jane Ashton, former director of workforce development for the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, served as the project manager of the STARS food-processing industry partnership since its founding.
Ashton said the group is currently looking to develop a certified food worker training program in response to industry input.
"Some training topics we already funded include supervisory, leadership development, industrial maintenance, management development, team and communication skills, electricity, food defense and food safety," she said.
Ashton said the group is also considering non-training initiatives such as group purchasing and presentations from experts in the food industry field.
Another consortium, the Northeast PA Food Processing Partnership, offers free training sessions for food-processing industry supervisors, managers and employees.
The partnership includes colleges and universities such as Penn State University that offer training programs for industries in Greater Hazleton.
"Our continuing education programs have been meeting the needs of business and industry for a very long time," said PSU Hazleton Assistant Director of Continuing Education Deb Conway. "The food service industry has a need for industrial maintenance employees and training in that area, so our Industrial Maintenance Program was developed to meet that need," she said.
In addition to that program, Penn State's local campus also offers an American Production Inventory Control Society (APICS) Certification and a Functional Manager Program, which uses workshop sessions to help participants learn more about five key areas of management.
Lettiere said, "Programs such as these are only some of the benefits for industries in Greater Hazleton's food services cluster. Through CAN DO's relationships with a variety of organizations, we are able to assist our industries with many of their needs."
To learn more about how to locate in Greater Hazleton and take advantage of the many benefits for food service industries in Humboldt Industrial Park, contact Lettiere at (570) 455-1508.