Last updated: May 01. 2014 9:16PM - 7601 Views
By Heather Rutz hrutz@civitasmedia.com

Gene Graves, center, president of Lakeview Farms announces hundreds of new jobs and plant consolidation Thursday afternoon at their corporate office in Delphos.
Gene Graves, center, president of Lakeview Farms announces hundreds of new jobs and plant consolidation Thursday afternoon at their corporate office in Delphos.
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DELPHOS — After many times on the short end of economic announcements, the city finally came out on top Thursday.

Lakeview Farms’ plans to add 200 new jobs and expand in a facility that had closed is welcome news for a community struggling with lost state funding, income tax revenue and water fees.

Lakeview Farms will add 200 new jobs over the next three years, nearly doubling its existing Delphos employment, company and community officials announced. The company will expand local operations in the former Reser’s Fine Foods facility at 1600 Gressel Drive. Lakeview has arranged a 10-year lease for the building, which will be owned by local real estate owner and contractor Keith Pohlman.

The maker of dips, gelatins, cheese spreads, desserts and sour cream will invest more than $12 million in the building for capital and technology improvements. Renovations are expected to be complete by the end of the year, and many of the jobs will be added in the next six months.

“This is a good place to do business,” Graves said. “The whole community has been good to us.”

The move means the company will close its only out-of-state facility, in Bristol, Wisc. The new facility in Delphos is more than 50 percent larger than the existing Delphos and Bristol plants combined. The renovations should start in the near future; when they are done, the company will move all its current operations, including manufacturing and a headquarters office, to the new site.

A new production line will be running by August, Graves said, with most of the new production starting by late fall and finishing by January. Most of the jobs will be added in the second half of this year.

The jobs are all full-time, mostly production, Graves said, and have a wide pay range. Allen Economic Development Group and Ohio Means Jobs Allen County will assist Lakeview Farms with the hiring, and that process will start soon, AEDG Vice President Eric Davis said.

Kristi Clouse, a Delphos native and project development manager with JobsOhio, said she was proud of the teamwork among agencies, among levels of government and with the private sector that made the project happen. The state contributed to the project with two incentives, Clouse said, a loan through JobsOhio’ Revitalization Fund, that will help Lakeview Farms with the $12 million renovation. Also, Lakeview Farms is receiving a tax credit through the Ohio Tax Credit Authority, which is tied to the job creation.

Clouse did not know how much the loan will be, and did not have details about the tax credit.

A host of officials helped celebrate the announcement, including Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg, Allen Economic Development Group President Jeff Sprague, Delphos Mayor Michael Gallmeier and Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina.

The group saluted the teamwork to make the project happen, and said Ohio’s new economic development model is creating an environment of job growth.

“I”m excited for Gene and excited for the city,” Gallmeier said.

Reser’s Fine Foods was the last vestige of the original I&K Distributors, before Lakeview Farms revived the facility.

Reser’s closed its doors in September 2013, and the city lost 100 jobs. At time, the company was the city’s largest water user and second-largest employer.

The Gressel Drive complex has a long history in Delphos, dating back to I&K Distributors’ founding in 1966 as a family-run business. At the time, I&K purchased the Yoder salad business, specializing in manufacturing and distributing salads to 75 Delphos-area customers on a single company truck. Lakeview Farms helped I&K with Yoder foods production and still does. Some years ago, the distribution and food preparation businesses split. In April 2012, Lipari Foods purchased the logistics and warehousing side, but closed it in September of that year.

The food business has remained. Orval Kent and parent company Chef Solutions had purchased the business from I&K, but Reser’s acquired the Gressel Drive facility in February of 2012 when Chef Solutions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. When Reser’s closed, the company approached Graves about the facility.

After lots of consideration, Graves decided to consolidate the operations under one roof. Lakeview Farms was spending $1 million a year just moving product back and forth between Delphos and Wisconsin.

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