Most of the workers have been hired, permits have been obtained and soon the finishing touches will be applied. And by late July or early August, a $35 million project outside Lebanon is expected to open for business.
The new Lebanon Valley Cold Storage and Distribution Center, slated for the Lebanon Rails Business Park in North Lebanon Township, is bringing 131 jobs over the next three years, said Susan Eberly, president of the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp.
As good as the news is, that Tennessee-based Bake Crafters Food Co. is opening a manufacturing and cold storage facility, Eberly said she hopes it leads to other projects — and that her county’s proximity to major markets will entice others, she said.
Lebanon Valley Cold Storage is the fourth tenant in the North Lebanon Township business park, which opened in 2007.
The others are Always Bagels, which supplies stores and food-service companies; paint and coatings manufacturer Valspar Corp.; and Lancaster-based VisionCorps, which operates its Alley Center for the Blind in the business park.
The efforts to attract Bake Crafters succeeded despite a slower economy over the last several years. Eberly said. “The project provided a glimmer of hope that new manufacturing opportunities were on the horizon, and that an out-of-state company saw potential in investing in Lebanon County.”
Her office led efforts to land the project, which involved a mix of financial incentives, including a temporary tax exemption through the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program established several years ago for the business park, Eberly said.
She was able to facilitate a low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority. Other state assistance has included a $250,000 Pennsylvania First program grant, $262,000 in job-creation tax credits and $58,950 for employee training.
Eberly said that Michael Byrd, the owner of Bake Crafters and the official who spearheaded the company’s decision to open in the Lebanon area, liked the area and that logically it made sense.
Efforts to reach Byrd were unsuccessful.
Eberly believes Lebanon County is positioned to be a transportation hub thanks to Interstates 78 and 81 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike running through its borders.
Ace Hardware is preparing to move into an existing building on Route 22 near the entrance to I-78/81. Others in teh area include a and a Sherwin-Williams Distribution Center and Ingram Micro Inc., a technology distributor.
“Our location and available workforce gives us an advantage,” she said.
Even with the new cold storage facility, the Lebanon Rails park still has about 90 acres remaining to be developed.
The other Lebanon County business park owned by the Economic Development Corp., the Lebanon Valley Business Park, has 17 businesses operating in it, including Schott Pharmaceutical Packaging, Regupol America LLC and Millet Plastics Inc.
But it also has 120 acres sitting ready to be developed, Eberly said.
However, she has three potential companies now in preliminary studies to possibly move in, so “things are picking up,” Eberly added.
Bake Crafters will be using most of the new Lebanon-area facility but company owner Byrd plans to lease some of the space to others. The facility is being built in two phases totaling 300,000 square feet, or the size of nearly six football fields.
The first phase, 100,000 square feet of cold storage space and 20,000 square feet of manufacturing room, will be completed in the next few weeks. The second phase, calling for 180,000 square feet of manufacturing space, is to come to fruition with two years, Eberly said.