Sewer upgrade spurs growth

TIPTON – Planned repairs and upgrades to the Northern Blair County Regional Sewer Authority system will play a role in expansion projects for four area companies and the creation of more jobs.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development recently announced the awarding of a $1 million Infrastructure Development Program grant as part of the department’s Pennsylvania First Program.

At the time of the Jan. 11 announcement, DCED officials said ORX Railway Corp., Kunzler & Co., DelGrosso Foods and Balfurd Inc. would expand operations resulting in the creation of at least 67 new jobs and the retention of 355 existing positions, as a result of the sewer expansion.

Kunzler & Co. already has added some jobs, said Dave Grazier, manager of the Tyrone plant.

“We’ve been hiring over the past several months to expand into a second shift in our bacon department. We have picked up making natural bacon, using all-natural ingredients and using antibiotic-free, hormone-free pigs. We started a second shift back in October and have hired about 12 people for that shift. We will hire more as we see a need,” Grazier said.

The all-natural bacon is becoming popular.

“This bacon is different from our regular bacon. We add raw sugar and natural sea salt and use no preservatives. This is something new to us, an attractive segment of business,” said Grazier, whose plant employs 160 workers. “There are a lot of people who are flocking to stores that supply these kind of products, and it is a good fit for us.”

Balfurd Inc. is in the process of a $1.3 million equipment upgrade, said Sam Spence, general manager of Balfurd’s Tipton plant.

“The upgrade will increase our capacity on a couple of our finishing lines by 20 percent. Employment-wise we are up about 10 percent over this time last year. This increases our capacity and gives us the opportunity to add people if we get the business,” said Spence, whose company employs 125 workers, including 100 at the Tipton plant.

ORX Railway Corp. is considering the construction of a new 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot building at a cost of $2 million to $4 million.

The project is in its preliminary design phase and will probably not begin until spring 2014 but could begin later this year, said President Glenn Brandimarte.

“The expansion is needed to provide warehouse and manufacturing space because we have outgrown our current facility and we just need more room,” Brandimarte said.

The project could lead to more jobs for the company, which employs 62.

“Our company cannot simply put a building up and bring in the extra people for the extra work that is needed. The building doesn’t create the need for more employees,” Brandimarte said.

“The need for more employees is created by the demand for our products. The fact is that we need the building right now and we need more employees right now,” Brandimarte said.

Brandimarte said the company has had a difficult time finding people who have the ability and work ethic to do the job that is required at ORX. It takes a year or two to properly train new employees.

Based on current conditions and future expectations, ORX will need between five and 10 new employees, some of whom have already been hired, Brandimarte said.

Projects under consideration at three DelGrosso businesses could occur within the next two or three years.

“These are not hard and fast commitments; rather they represent possible scenarios for expansion, investment and job creation that we hope can be accomplished within this time frame,” said Michael DelGrosso, vice president of global sales and marketing at DelGrosso Foods. “Naturally, a lot of our plans to advance these projects are contingent on the overall economy and our industry trends.”

Expansion projects are being considered at DelGrosso Foods, Marianna Foods and DelGrosso’s Amusement Park.

DelGrosso Foods may increase its production capacity and might invest in new item production capabilities or facilities to enable the company to improve efficiency and potentially offer new products, DelGrosso said.

At Marianna Foods, the company is considering investing in new process capabilities or facilities to improve efficiency and increase output.

The company also is looking at investing in rides and attractions, including water park and restroom facilities to increase attendance and enhance the visitor experience at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park.

Those possible investments would run from at least $1 million to several million dollars and create between five and 25 jobs full- and part-time jobs, depending on which projects are selected, DelGrosso said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.