MEDINA – Fred Miller worked at Lipton in Albion as a young man. The plant closed in 1980, putting hundreds of people out of work.
Miller would go on to run a hardware store in downtown Albion. He also is an Orleans County legislator.
On Wednesday he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new Pride Pak vegetable processing site in Medina, a 68,000-square-foot building. Pride Pak has plans for expansion, with two more similar-size buildings.
Seeing the building stirred memories for Miller, of the busy Lipton plant that provided jobs for hundreds of working class families.
“This is wonderful to see,” Miller said inside the spacious Pride Pak, a 280-foot-long building where employees trim, clean and pack salads for Wegmans and other Pride Pak customers. “It reminds me of the old days when I went to Liptons.”
Pride Pak was looking at the former Bernz-O-Matic site in Medina, but decided to build new on Maple Ridge Road. The new facility didn’t need a costly retrofit and the site has room for the future expansions.
Steve Karr, Pride Pak CEO, said the company didn’t go cheap with the new building. It wanted an attractive facility on an important gateway in the Medina community.
Mike Sidari, the Medina mayor, thanked Karr and Pride Pak for such a nice addition to Maple Ridge Road. Not only will the company employ up to 300 people at full build-out, but it added a beautiful site on a busy corridor, Sidari said.
“It’s an inviting building as you come into the village,” Sidari said.
The grand opening celebration on Wednesday included fancy hors d’oeuvre appetizers, and local beers and wines, as well as a band playing. A warehouse was turned into a room for fine dining.
“We’ve been to a lot of ribbon cuttings,” State Sen. Robert Ortt said, “but none like this. This is truly amazing.”
Ortt said Pride Pak’s decision to build its first U.S. facility in Medina shows that rural Orleans County welcomes business.
“You don’t have to be in Rochester to attract a world-class headquarters,” Ortt said. “They have invested here in Medina, in Orleans County, in Upstate New York, in the United States of America.”
Pride Pak has one packing line in place and is working to get more on line. The packing equipment allows the company to double the rate of trimming, cleaning and packing vegetables for the salads.
Medina, the Town of Shelby, Orleans County and Empire State Development all worked to provide incentives for Pride Pak, and to get infrastructure in place for the new building and the future expansions.
Steve Karr thanked the government officials for their work with the project, which is about a $20 million investment for phase 1.
Karr said about 50,000 man hours went into the facility’s construction. He has been working 80 hour weeks in Medina to move the project along.
He was wearing a suit on Wednesday for the grand opening. But much of his time the past year was in overalls, helping with construction projects at the site.
Karr’s work ethic is legendary at the company. Robert Chapman, Pride Pak’s vice president of sales and marketing, said Karr’s determination made the ambitious project a reality on a tight schedule.
“Steve Karr is the most hard-working and committed man I’ve ever seen,” Chapman told about 300 people during the grand opening celebration. “It is Steve’s hard work and dedication that made this project in Medina possible.”