New Company Gives Old Plant New Life

OSWEGO TOWN, NY – The year ended on a sour note for employees of the BirdsEye plant in Fulton. The decades-old frozen food processing plant closed last month.

However, dozens of displaced workers hope to start off the new year with a new job.

Champlain Valley Specialty of Keeseville recently announced that it will be renovating and expanding the former Empire Fresh Cuts facility in Oswego Town into an apple processing facility.

Today (Jan. 10), Congressman Bill Owens toured the site of the new Champlain Valley Apple Slicing facility on Route 104.

Jeremy Dygert, one of the owners of Champlain Valley Specialty, points out some of the new equipment at their new plant in Oswego Town to Congressman Bill Owens on Tuesday.
Jeremy Dygert, one of the owners of Champlain Valley Specialty, points out some of the new equipment at their new plant in Oswego Town to Congressman Bill Owens on Tuesday.

“This is a great opportunity; we’re looking at 80 jobs. These people are already trained, so it helps this operation,” Owens said referring to the former Empire Fresh Cuts and BirdsEye employees seeking work with Champlain Valley Specialty. “It’s just a win-win all the way around!”

“We’re getting settled in, taking out some of the old equipment that was here for onions,” explained Jeremy Dygert, one of the new owners. “We hope to begin new production by the first of February. We’re basically right in the middle of the apple growing region. This was a great opportunity for us. This building really lays out well for our process.”

The plant will be capable of putting out about 400,000 pounds per week, he added.

Right now they are shipping their product to a lot of schools.

“Those programs have really picked up over the last couple of years,” Dygert told Oswego County Today. “We have seen an increase this year of around 30 percent.”

“They are moving some operations to this area because it puts them in another location where there is a high concentration of apple orchards,” Owens said. “To a certain extent it was a little bit of luck and some good entrepreneurship on their part to find a good location like this with many trained workers looking for jobs.”

“If you’re going to add 80 jobs in any community, that’s really important,” he added. “It also helps the orchards because now there is a local opportunity to sell their product. This is a real good situation in terms of getting the product in. Much of their product, ultimately, goes to retailers in the area and so people are getting fresh fruit.”

“Clearly, you want to put the folks who’ve lost jobs back into the workforce. This is a great opportunity – they are looking at 80 jobs,” Owens said. “These people are already trained, which helps this operation. I’m happy they are expanding and I’m real happy they are expanding inside the district.”

“We are hiring the workforce now,” Dygert said. “We have received a lot of applications from the area. We’ll be contacting employees over the next couple weeks. When we get started it will be a general startup, but very quickly we will add workers as we bring new lines on. We’re looking for production and we are looking for people who have talents in mechanical repair, QA technicians and more.”

“We have pleasantly been surprised by the amount of talent that there is in I the area,” Dygert said. “It’s here and it’s available. It just makes our job that much easier.”

The Oswego County facility is in addition to the work they are doing at their Keeseville facility, the congressman pointed out.

This means the creation of 30-40 jobs at startup.

They are continuing to interview and hire.

“This certainly is a project that fits perfectly right in with the products that are being grown here. So we are getting a double benefit. The producers win in terms of selling their product and Champlain Valley Specialty receiving a quality product to work with. It’s a good fit,” L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County, told Oswego County Today. “They are getting a lot of interest from job-seekers, some of them are former Fresh Cut employees and others former BirdsEye employees.”

Project financing partners include Operation Oswego County, ESDC and County IDA.

For more information, visit www.grabapples.com