Agribusiness — food processing and manufacturing in particular — is big business. And it is becoming an important part of the economic development strategy of several counties in the region.
Cumberland County has even made it a focus of business attraction.
Jonathan Bowser, CEO of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., said the county has the capacity to grow in the agribusiness industry, but is low on available land with the proper infrastructure for food processing.
“We are trying to ensure that we have what we need as far as road networks, rail access and water and sewer capacity to be able to support new businesses coming into the area,” he said.
The county’s latest comprehensive plan for economic development highlighted attracting food processors and supporting expansion efforts by existing food manufacturers as areas of focus. Cumberland County is already home to several food processors and manufacturers such as ADM Milling, The Warrell Corp., Nestle Purina, Land O’Lakes Inc., Bimbo Bakeries USA, Kessler Foods Inc., Warrington Farm Meats and the Lindt Chocolate Factory Outlet.
“We have a very rich farming community with access to highways, interstates and consumers, and we are in a very strategic location with access to East Coast ports and two-thirds of the entire U.S. population in about a day’s drive,” Bowser said.
Just a couple counties to the east, the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County does a lot of lending through Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) programs.
“Since 2005, we have used it for everything from buying farms or transitioning them from parents to children to building broiler houses for chickens,” said John Biemiller, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County. “We have a whole support system of feed mills, equipment suppliers and even financial institutions such as Fulton Bank and others.”
The majority of the county’s farms focus on animal production, whether that means newt chickens at Tyson Foods Inc. in New Holland or Sauder’s Eggs in Lititz. The county’s farms also produce quite a bit of milk for Turkey Hill Dairy, The Hershey Co., and the New York and New Jersey metropolitan markets.
“Many of the fields you see tend to grow feed for animals,” Biemiller said. “We also have a decent number of hog operations for pork and even some duck houses, so it’s pretty diverse.”
Several large companies, such as Kellogg Co., Pepperidge Farm, Kunzler & Co. Inc. and Mars Inc. have locations in the county as well.
“We really are a hub for food processing,” he added.
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