Rochester, N.Y. – Lanovara Specialty Foods has been making its signature cookies and cannolis since 1920. The commercial bakery and food distribution center has 55 full and part-time workers.
“It’s a wonderful business,” said owner Bert Salisbury. “It’s just the right size so my wife and I can be here. We know all the employees.”
Lanovara is one of hundreds of food processing companies in the Rochester region. The New York State Labor Department estimates there are 13,700 people directly employed in the industry.
Rochester Institute of Technology held a conference Wednesday on food processing. The event brought together large and small companies for networking and brainstorming. The college is working with many firms on training, waste management and technology.
“Having more food manufacturers in the area gives us an opportunity to potentially partner with somebody,” said Julie Camardo-Steron, the president of Zweigle’s, which is working with RIT on new computing systems.
Local economic development officials would like to attract more food processors. The region has a lot to offer, including an ample water supply. Rochester is the state’s largest milk-producing region, which has drawn major yogurt producers to Genesee County. Apple-growing and apple processing is also big business. The Finger Lakes is the largest wine-producing region in the state and is home to mega-liquor company Constellation Brands.
“Most of our products are organic and people don’t realize we’re the third largest state in the nation for growing organic foods,” said Gael Orr of Once Again Nut Butter in Nunda.
Major food and beverage employers in Rochester include LiDestri, Barilla, Kraft, Baldwin Richardson and North American Breweries.
There’s another reason food processing companies find locating in Rochester attractive. They often sell their products to Wegmans.
“There are a lot of food companies like ourselves,” said Salisbury. “But I think a lot of it may have to do with Wegmans here who does support the local community.”