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The Telegram
  • Local products bolster Mohawk Valley’s industry

  • Idaho is known for its potatoes and Florida for its oranges.

    What about the Mohawk Valley?

    That’s just it — the area has become a jack-of-all-trades with industry. From beer to apples to yogurt, the area has produced businesses that play a large part in New York’s growing industries.

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  • Idaho is known for its potatoes and Florida for its oranges.
    What about the Mohawk Valley?
    That’s just it — the area has become a jack-of-all-trades with industry. From beer to apples to yogurt, the area has produced businesses that play a large part in New York’s growing industries.
    The Mohawk Valley can support industries that have steeped themselves into local culture, as well as recently seeded companies coming to full bloom, said Ray Durso, Jr., executive director of the Genesis Group. “I think we’re in a really unique situation,” he said. “We have history and tradition in the Mohawk Valley, but we’re also on the cutting edge of industry.”
    Here’s what the region in renowned for:
    Craft beers
    Beer brewing has long roots in the area’s soil. Literally.
    For centuries, the Mohawk Valley was teeming with hops, a big flavor agent in making beer, until about the 20th century, said Larry Bennett, director of public relations and creative services for Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown. “At one time, brewing in our area was central to the U.S. because of the hops that were here,” he said. “With prohibition, it died off, but it came back.”
    It came back, and then some, especially in the last decade, said David Katleski, president of the New York State Brewers Association. Beer has become a multi-million dollar industry for the state.
    Ten years ago, there were about 30 breweries in the state, he said. Now, that number has grown to more than 140 — 91 of them licensed manufacturing facilities, he said — many of them producing at full capacity.
    “I’m pretty confident in saying every single one, they can’t brew anymore beer,” Katleski said.
    The F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in Utica produced about 330,000 barrels of beer this year, and about two-thirds of the people giving Saranac business live in the state, said Meghan Fraser, the brewery’s marketing and public relations coordinator.
    Apples
    Steve Cronk planted apple trees in his side yard as a hobby about 11 years ago — something with which to start a retirement fund.
    Now his business, Split Rail Apple Farm in Oneida, has come to fruition.
    Cronk said it took little effort to produce his average 60 bushels of apples, something he attributes specifically to the Mohawk Valley, or at least its soil. “The soil is all farmland here, and the trees grow beautifully with no fertilization, no need to water,” he said. “I think it’s an ideal area for growing.”
    New York is the second-largest apple producing state in the country, behind Washington. In 2011, New York produced 1.22 billion pounds of fresh apples and apple products, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s August Fruit Report. The crop from 2010 was worth $227 million.
    Page 2 of 3 - But not every year is that fruitful. Abnormal weather decimated the state’s crop this year, said Molly Golden, marketing director for the New York State Apple Association.
    For a state that usually puts out 29 million bushels of apples, nearly half of this year’s crop was lost to the bad weather, Golden said. “Due to the weather, this year has really been a challenge,” she said.
    Specialty paper
    Thinking about paper making, one usually imagines reams of printer paper. But for Burrows Paper Corporation in Little Falls, their business goes way beyond the traditional 8 x 11 white stock.
    Between the two Little Falls locations, more than 40,000 tons of specialty papers are produced in a year, from tissue paper and crepe streamers, to coffee filters and moist towelettes, according to a 2011 profile on the company in Pulp & Paper International.
    The area’s logging industry and sawmills became the perfect background for Burrows Paper in 1919 when it opened its Little Falls corporate location. Today, the locally-born company has nine locations internationally, from paper mills in the U.S. (two of them in Little Falls) to a packaging plant in The Netherlands and, the most recent expansion, a representative office in Shanghai.
    Though Burrows currently sources the wood pulp that makes up their product worldwide, it used to have a pulp mill in the area, but it closed in 2005, according to the article.
    A representative from Burrows was not available for comment.
    The forest product industry, including paper products, is a big moneymaker for the state. The industry contributes $8.8 billion to the state’s gross product, according to the Empire State Forest Products Association.
    Burrows received $550,000 for upgrades through a grant from the state, awarded in December.
    Greek yogurt
    Whether plain, fruit on the bottom or flavored, area dairy plants producing Greek yogurt have helped Central New York become a powerhouse in the industry.
    The power behind the plants? The cows.
    New York is the third-largest milk producing state in the country, said Bruce Krupke, executive vice president of the Northeast Dairy Foods Association, based in Syracuse. The state is backed by 1.4 million dairy cattle. Without the milk, there would be no yogurt, he said.
    “You’re not going to find a coal mine in Utica if there’s no coal there,” Krupke said.
    Two major Greek yogurt plants — Chobani brand produced by Chenango County’s Agro Farma and Fage USA based in Johnstown — use many local dairy farms to supply the foundation of their yogurts. For example, Finndale Farms in Holland Patent sends milk to Fage.
    The two producers are growing to keep up with buyers’ demands for Greek yogurt, Krupke said.
    Chobani’s South Edmeston plant, which employs more than 1,400 people, is the largest dairy processing plant in the state, according to a statement provided by Kelly LaCorte, corporate communication coordinator for Agro Farma. It recently opened a second yogurt production plant — the world’s largest — in Twin Falls, Idaho.
    Page 3 of 3 - Fage opened in 2008 as a 220,000-square-foot facility and is planning on breaking ground for a $100 million, 180,000-square-foot expansion next year. The developments will double the plant’s production.
    Hand-crafted furniture
    With numerous craft fairs and farmers markets in the area, it’s not hard to see that the people of the Mohawk Valley can make beautiful things with their hands.
    One company, Harden Furniture in McConnellsville, takes advantage of local resources, right down to the raw lumber, to craft furniture that has been described as “functional art.”
    The Harden family started the company 168 years ago, and has been family owned and operated since. Current Chief Executive Officer Greg Harden keeps up the family tradition and even lives in his grandmother’s former home.
    The raw resources are a big pull for Harden Furniture to be in the area, Hall said. Central New York woodlands supply black cherry and maple for their furniture and the pieces are processed through the company’s own sawmill in Fish Creek.
    Though well established already, the company is modernizing. A $600,000 grant from the state awarded this month allowed the company to invest in computerized numerical controlled equipment to make the furniture crafting more efficient, said Harden.
    “There’s a certain resonance to our story when it’s not just about skilled artisans, but the southern Adirondacks has great character,” he said. “We put (Harden Furniture) in a place like the Mohawk Valley. Not in an industrial park. There’s a certain Norman Rockwell feeling that comes with it.”

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