BLOCKVILLE - In October, Empire State Development announced that Empire Specialty Cheese Co. LLC will invest $6.37 million to expand its business in Chautauqua County. According to Tony Caparco, owner of Empire Cheese, the plant is looking for an opening production date in September.
"We're moving along as fast as we can to get this done," Caparco said. "The way the trends are today and the milk being so high, it's slowing us down a little bit because of the price of milk. But other than that, we're moving forward."
For the last six months, a crew has been working inside the building and doing renovations. Equipment is being bought on auction.
According to Caparco, there have been no major complications. Tom Walsh, director of operations at South and Center Sewer District, met with Caparco on March 24 to discuss expectations and Caparco agreed to let the district take effluent samples to test. This is because cheese produces a byproduct called "whey," which contains a lot of biological nutrients and is rich and organic.
"So, to break that all down, it requires a large mass of organic digesting per say. So, it takes a large volume for the organic material because that whey is so rich in nutrients. And what it refers to is biological oxygen demand," Walsh said. "So, the whey is very high in what we refer to as BOD. For (Caparco) to discharge that to our plant straight would be very disruptive to our processes here at South and Center Sewer District. So, what we ask him to do is a pretreatment program to remove some of the BOD, which is the nutrients in the whey."
Empire Specialty Cheese still needs to run the stainless steel piping, put up the silos and other regular manufacture preparations to run the plant.
The company purchased and is in the process of upgrading the former AFA meat processing plant at 277 Fairbank Road in Blockville in the town of Harmony to expand operations in Southwestern New York. Currently the company retains 46 full-time, permanent employees at its current Conewango Valley location, and the Blockville plant will result in the creation of 204 new jobs over the next five years, officials said.