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Attracting & expanding the food processing sector

This editorial initially appeared in the Cumberland Valley Business Journal.

With close proximity to agricultural production, food processing seems like an easy industry to attract at first glance. If a product requires milk or soy, why not locate it next to a farm that supplies such products? Although this seems like a natural fit, food processing is a broad industry that requires three very important things: proximity to supply, accessible utilities (namely water, sewer and electric) and proximity to consumers.

Food processing and manufacturing often requires equipment with substantial electrical demands. Water is used actively in production as well. Disposal of wastewater from the production process demands sewer capacity. For food processing, this infrastructure is generally available in developed areas with existing infrastructure. While a large greenfield may seem optimal to build a new food production facility, without nearby utilities it becomes a rather heavy investment that most companies cannot make.

Once a product is developed, it needs to reach consumers quickly. Proximity to major highways, freight rail and cargo air transportation are often key in the food production site selection process.

CAEDC can help facilitate discussions on finding the right locations and connecting utilities to the appropriate sites. As well as, offer a great location with access to major highways and markets in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The County is within a three-hour drive of Washington DC, Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It is also the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania. Our strategic location, abundant and fertile farmland, a skilled workforce, and comprehensive infrastructure gets food products to market quickly and at a reasonable cost.

With food processing being a focus area for the Strategic Economic Development Plan for Cumberland County, CAEDC has also dedicated financing resources to this industry. Through internal and state loan programs, CAEDC is able to make projects happen faster and more efficiently.

Just in the past year, CAEDC has assisted three major food processors in Cumberland County expand through financing efforts.

Through the Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan program, CAEDC assisted Warrington Farm Meats with a $595,000 loan for an expansion to their butcher shop.

Using low-interest loans through the PA Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) CAEDC assisted both Eleven Oaks Farm and AC Bakehouse with their expansions.

Eleven Oaks Farm in Newville is a family-owned enterprise that was looking to expand their farm to include raising Wagyu Beef and Gloucestershire Hogs. Through a $227,500 loan they were able to acquire the additional needed farmland.

AC Bakehouse, a food manufacturer who makes pretzel brands including Tonya’s Gluten-Free Kitchen, All Twisted Pretzel and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, received two PIDA loans totaling $900,000 to expand their operation in Carlisle.

To learn more about CAEDC’s focus on food processing and financing options for this industry visit CumberlandBusiness.com/Grow.

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