Business may move to Ashville

The opportunity to bring millions of dollars in direct foreign investment into the county is becoming a distinct possibility.

Maarten Moog, president and CEO of ConSup North America, and Kevin McManus, CFO of ConSup North America, announced during Tuesday’s Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency meeting that Ashville is one of two possible North American-based locations for a manufacturing facility for pet care products. If state funding goes through, German-based Saturn Petcare Inc. may be the new tenant in the former AFA Food building in Ashville.

According to a press release, Saturn Petcare Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heristo Aktiengesellschaft Germany. The company is planning to establish a U.S.-based manufacturing facility for pet care products.

As part of the selection process for site locations, the former AFA Food plant has been identified as a potential location. According to Moog, the other potential site is in Michigan. The potential availability of incentives by the CCIDA and New York state will further impact the decision to move into the county.

“We are in very close contact to the former plant management (of AFA Food), and we’d like to have access to all of the former employees,” Moog said. “When we start out, of course, conservatively, slowly, we will not employ the first 800 people, but we will have access to such people in the future, because it is a great advantage.”

Saturn Petcare Inc. anticipates starting out with 25 openings for employment, and then expanding to more than 100 jobs within five years.

“We have a very conservative approach,” Moog said. “If everything is correct, we believe that the numbers will be exceeded and accelerated. But, we want to go in with a realistic and conservative approach.”

Moog and McManus said Saturn Petcare Inc. is currently evaluating the infrastructure of AFA Food. If the company chooses the Ashville location, it will pump more than $20 million into the building for upgrades and to establish its business.

“They are forecasted to spend a lot of money – $20 million to upgrade this plant,” said Bill Daly, administrative director for the CCIDA. “They are very precise in what they do. They will take that USDA-grade for human food and make it beyond USDA-human food specs.”

Daly also pointed to other foreign-owned businesses in the county, including SKF Aeroengine and MD Electronics, as major beneficiaries to the county, which have also been helped by the CCIDA.

“This is millions of dollars of direct foreign investment in Chautauqua County by a German company,” said County Executive Greg Edwards. “This is going to result in a significant upgrade to the facility, new hiring, new jobs once the purchase occurs.”

Saturn Petcare Inc.’s parent company, heristo, is a family run group of companies active in meat processing, fine food and pet food sectors, as well as importing and exporting food in the German and international markets. Moog and McManus said major U.S. retailers include Costco, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s.

Moog said the next step to determining the location of Saturn Petcare Inc. lies largely in the hands of New York state, and whether additional funding will come through.

According to Edwards, the CCIDA has helped Saturn Petcare Inc. with a presentation to Empire State Development to encourage the state to put together an incentive package from Albany, which he said will enable the deal to get closed and put people in the county back to work.

“(The CCIDA) has been extremely supportive,” Moog said. “I can’t say the Michigan folks haven’t been supportive, because they are trying to do the same thing. A major portion of the decision process depends on what the state comes back with on their package.”

The decision should be made within 45 days.