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Dobbins pushing $5 million expansion in Lyndonville

File photo by Tom Rivers: Ward Dobbins is pictured inside H.H. Dobbins in this photo from September. Dobbins is working on a 10,300-square-foot expansion to accommodate a larger packing line.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 November 2016 at 8:21 am

LYNDONVILLE – A business that packs about 1 million bushels of apple each year is moving ahead with a $5 million expansion that will include a new packing line with the latest technology.

H.H. Dobbins (Empire Fruit LLC) will put a 10,300-square-foot addition on its complex at 129 West Ave. The added space will accommodate a new state-of-art packing line that can detect internal and external blemishes on fruit.

Right now, Dobbins has workers on the packing lines that sort fruit that doesn’t quite look perfect. The new packing line will have a defect sorter that quickly scans for exterior imperfections in fruit. Another big advantage to the technology will be seeing problems inside the fruit, such as water coring, that aren’t detectable to the human eye, Ward Dobbins, the company owner and chief executive officer, said in an interview in September. (Orleans Hub featured him in article in September because he was honored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.)

Dobbins said the new line won’t displace workers. They will instead be packing boxes and bags of fruit. The new line will increase the volume from 140 bushels packed per hour to 900 bushels, Dobbins said.

The expansion project is estimated to cost $5 million for the new equipment, machinery, fixtures and furnishings, as well as construction of the new space.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency has approved a sales tax abatement that will save H.H. Dobbins $220,864 in sales tax. That is an exemption on the 8 percent tax on an estimated $2,760,800 in taxable purchases of equipment and materials. The EDA board of directors approved the incentive on Nov. 10.

That is the only tax break Dobbins will receive from the EDA for the project. The company isn’t pursuing a property tax discount with the project.

This is the second recent significant expansion and investment by Dobbins. The business last year opened a new 26,240-square-foot controlled atmosphere storage building on Millers Road, about 2 miles from the main packing house on West Avenue.

That $3.4 million project boosted Dobbins’ on-site storage by 300,000 bushels of apples. The CA also acts to put apples “to sleep,” allowing them to be stored for many months, sometimes up to a year.

H.H. Dobbins was started in 1905 and under the leadership of the fourth-generation owner, Ward Dobbins.

Dobbins is working to have the new packing line in production by next harvest season, EDA officials said.

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