When Hamdi Ulukaya began visiting his father’s feta cheese factory in Istanbul‚ Turkey at the age of 7‚ the famous Ulukaya family recipe for feta could be found only in the Middle East and Europe.
These days‚ the same secret recipe from Euphrates Inc. is available across the United States thanks‚ in large part‚ to a cooperative business effort between the company and the Fulton County Economic Development Corp.
“If you order a Greek salad anywhere from Maine to Florida‚ there’s a very good chance the feta was made here by Euphrates Inc.‚” says Ulukaya‚ who manufactures and distributes more than 25‚000 pounds of feta cheese each day from a 42‚000-square-foot facility located in Johnstown Industrial Park.
After an exhaustive search for the right North American location for Euphrates’ stateside expansion in 1998‚ Ulukaya and his business partners tapped Fulton County for its proximity to dairy producers‚ transportation resources and an accommodating business environment.
“We knew that milk produced in the Hudson Valley was of very high quality‚ but ultimately‚ we chose Johnstown for its willingness to accommodate our business needs and its great logistics.
“You can ship product quickly to major markets‚ such as Boston‚ New York‚ Philadelphia and Washington‚ D.C.‚ as well west toward Ohio‚” Ulukaya says. “Trucking along the eastern seaboard has worked well to our advantage.”
The Fulton County advantage has worked so well‚ in fact‚ that Ulukaya says he expects Euphrates’ production to double to 50‚000 pounds of feta cheese a day by the end of 2005. He also expects the company to add to its current staff of 35 and begin producing ancillary products‚ including yogurt and goat’s milk cheeses.
“Based on our positive experience with the EDC and their dedication to making our expansion into the United States a success‚ I would recommend Fulton County to any company interested in moving from overseas markets‚ particularly in the dairy industry. We’ve seen a very good return on our investment here‚” Ulukaya says.
FAGE Dairy Industry
Another company looking for a return on its investment is FAGE Dairy Industry‚ based in Athens‚ Greece. After a search that spanned many months and many locations in New York and the northeastern United States‚ FAGE made the decision to finance‚ construct‚ own and operate a more than $30 million‚ 110‚000-square-foot facility on a 20-acre parcel in the Johnstown Industrial Park.
With more than 115 different products‚ FAGE is the second-largest food producer and the leading dairy company in Greece. The company will produce yogurt in Fulton County and expects to be in full operation with approximately 60 employees by early 2006.
According to Lisa McCoy‚ marketing director for the Fulton County EDC‚ the success of companies such as Euphrates Inc. is the result of a long-term development plan initiated in the 1980s. That plan came about after overseas outsourcing prompted a decline in the local leather and tanning industry‚ which had been the driving force behind the region’s economy since the late 1800s.
“We’ve come a very long way since the days when the leather and tanning industry was the only game in town‚” McCoy says. “Our mission has been to diversify the economy‚ employ a ready workforce and attract new talent to the area. We’re already seeing several glowing success stories with start-up companies and corporate relocations‚ and outside interest is steadily increasing.”
Many of these corporate success stories are unfolding at the county’s three business parks. Johnstown Industrial Park‚ which houses 13 companies‚ includes Wal-Mart Food Distribution‚ Wal-Mart Northeast Regional Return Center and Benjamin Moore Paints.
Crossroads Industrial Park is home to 11 companies‚ including a Top-Flite Golf Co. manufacturing facility‚ SYSCO Corp. and Dixon Valve. The newest of the three parks is the Crossroads Business Park‚ which broke ground on a new office building in the spring of 2005.
In addition to business activity at these sites‚ redevelopment is taking place in historic areas to create more commercial and residential space to support the growing economy.
In the center of Johnstown‚ a historic hotel built in 1927 has been transformed into the Johnstown Professional Office Complex. In Gloversville‚ the former Estee School is being developed into 36 high-end apartments and town houses that are scheduled to open by early 2006.
“We’re seeing results from our economic development efforts in a variety of ways. More people are moving from the New York City metropolitan area to work and live in Fulton County‚” McCoy says. “The professionalism and quality of life here is like no other.”
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