After operating rather quietly for the last seven months, the Love Beets plant at the Eastman Business Park opened its doors Thursday for the public’s first chance to visit the completed production facility.
Groups of six people at a time were outfitted with protective clothing before viewing the first line, cookers, and packaging area of the 100, 000-square-foot facility. It was the first time since adding a second shift that employees who work mornings and afternoons were all there to help guide the tour.
“We’ve been doing interviewing, we’ve been to job fairs,” said David Stoklosa, managing director of the plant.
In another room, contractors, other staff and special guests indulged in a spread of fruit and beet-inspired hors d’oeuvres to officially celebrate the company’s launch.
Love Beets processes fresh, marinated and organic beets products at the LiDestri Foods manufacturing complex. The company has hired 111 employees in the last year, more than half of whom were actively recruited once production began in January. The workforce is visibly diverse, including several nationalities, different age groups and about as many women as men. The first 30 or so staffers, Stoklosa said, were recommended among his personal network. He said he expects the number of employees to increase to 140 in the next three years.
“We are expecting to add another shift and with that comes more equipment, more volume,” he said.
Production jobs in Rochester can pay anywhere between $10 and $18 per hour.
Love Beets has spent nearly $20 million on this facility, and about 60% of that money, Stoklosa said, covered replacing the bricks and mortar.
“We can expand almost quadruple where we are now from a footprint reduction on the equipment side without expanding the facility. So, our capacity we’re just scratching the surface of,” said Stoklosa.
LiDestri Foods, which already has a big food processing operation here, partnered with a UK-based produce company called G's Fresh Ltd. to form Love Beets. Stoklosa said two-thirds of the beets processed this year will come from New York.
“And it’s all new crop,” he added.
Because of the vegetable’s harvest season, Stoklosa said it’s impossible for all the beets to be grown locally. In the summer months, Love Beets works with farmers in southern states, and Mexico, to grow its supply. But whether you’re working on the farm, at the plant or in the retail end of the business, Stoklosa said the joint venture was built to last.
“I’ve got 111 families that are counting on this company and I’m not going to let them down.”
Empire State Development is providing a $1 million grant, up to $1.5 million in tax credits and a low interest loan to the business.