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Amy's Kitchen eyes New York for manufacturing

Amy's Kitchen workers scoop corn into enchilada meals at the company's Santa Rosa facility. (PD File, 2013)

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 5:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 5:12 p.m.

Vegetarian frozen food maker Amy's Kitchen has shelved plans to build a second production plant in Santa Rosa, even as it seeks to build a new manufacturing facility in New York.

Petaluma-based Amy's, which has 1,000 workers in Sonoma County, last spring announced plans to build another plant in Santa Rosa that one day could employ 800 new workers.

But on Wednesday company officials put forth their plan for a new plant for 680 workers that would be located about 55 miles north of New York City. Amy's is seeking more than $11 million in tax breaks to support the New York project, according to a local media report.

The company, one of the nation's largest makers of natural frozen foods, said it needs to make its products closer to more customers.

“Having an East Coast plant really is a necessity for us,” said Kevin Haslebacher, Amy's executive vice president of manufacturing operations.

“More than half of our sales are on the East Coast,” Haslebacher said. “So it just makes good business sense to expand that way.”

Haslebacher acknowledged the company no longer had plans for a second plant in Sonoma County, though it remained possible Amy's still might consider such a move again some day.

The company is making plans to expand production at its current facilities in both Santa Rosa and near Medford, Ore. Haslebacher said it was too early to know how many new jobs that might create in Sonoma County.

The company might need about three years to begin operations in New York, he said.

Last spring, local officials and business leaders applauded the news that Amy's wanted to build a second plant in Santa Rosa. On Thursday they were nearly as enthusiastic that the company instead was going to build in New York.

Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley said the main thing is that the company's headquarters and Santa Rosa plant will remain in Sonoma County and that Amy's will continue to grow.

“Making that company successful ... should be our bottom line,” Bartley said.

Jonathan Coe, president of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, said “The bottom line is it's great to see that Amy's is growing as fast as they are and that their product is as popular as it is.”

Carolyn Stark, executive director of the Sonoma County BEST job creation program, said Amy's continued growth will result in new management- and executive-level jobs at the company's headquarters in Petaluma.

“While it's unfortunate that the large expansion won't be happening in Santa Rosa, it's a good thing that the company's doing so well,” Stark said.

The Times-Herald Record of Middletown, N.Y., reported Thursday that the tax breaks Amy's is seeking include an estimated $4.5 million property tax abatement, a $420,000 mortgage tax exemption and a $6.5 million sales and use tax exemption.

Officials for the Orange County Industrial Development Agency, the body that is reviewing Amy's request, weren't available for comment Thursday.

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