The secret’s out – Ohio is an ideal place to grow a company, and that’s especially true for food processors. That’s because from farm to fork, the entire agriculture chain can be found in Ohio, from raw materials to business partners and consumers.
To put it simply, you can grow it in Ohio, you can process it in Ohio, and you can sell it in and around Ohio.
Ohio’s Strategic Location
“We have a very valuable spot in the world when it comes to putting farming, food processing and consumers together,” says Aaron Pitts, senior managing director overseeing the food processing industry for JobsOhio, a private non-profit corporation designed to drive job creation and capital investment in Ohio. “We’re in the eastern most part of the corn belt with an abundance of resources, including water and low-cost energy. Perhaps most powerful is that our location on the map is within 600 miles of 60 percent of the U.S. and Canadian populations.”
That means food processors are in proximity to their customers. And with more than 13 million acres of Ohio farmland – accounting for more than half the state’s acreage – food processors have easy access to an abundance of suppliers.
Ohio’s Skilled Workforce
Major food processing companies including Kroger, Kraft, J.M. Smucker Co., Nestlé, Dannon, ConAgra Foods and Heinz have all put down roots in Ohio. They enjoy Ohio’s relatively low-cost operating basis, which Pitts says is 20 to 30 percent lower than on the U.S. coasts.
“There are several pretty compelling reasons to set up a food processing company here,” he says. “We have all the inputs you need. We grow a large variety of crops, have an abundance of livestock and offer you access to a reliable supply of fresh water. And Ohioans are known for being hard workers. We have 11.5 million people in Ohio with a 200-year heritage of having grown up with parents or grandparents who worked hard in agriculture or in factories. It’s our way of life.”
Ohio’s education system produces a skilled workforce ranging from high school to college graduates. Ohio State University in Columbus has more than 44,000 undergraduate students and ranks 18th among the nation’s best public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 edition of America’s Best Colleges.
“If you think about what it takes to operate a food manufacturing facility, we have the full comprehensive labor force,” Pitts says.
Ohio Food Processors
In July 2015, Nestlé celebrated the grand opening of its new 144,000-square-foot Nestlé Research & Development Center in Solon, where the company plans to transform the way the world enjoys frozen and chilled foods.
“The new center is an invaluable addition to our R&D capabilities,” says Sean Westcott, director of Nestlé R&D Solon. “We’ve truly created a community of experts to help fuel innovative ideas that offer consumers the frozen and chilled foods choices they want.”
Companies also benefit from Ohio’s fair tax system, stable government and smart regulations.
“We view businesses as an asset to Ohio, and we advocate on their behalf,” Pitts says.
Also in 2015, Scottish craft brewery BrewDog announced plans to open its North American headquarters and first production facility outside the United Kingdom in Ohio in 2016. It is a $30.4 million investment that is expected to create 125 jobs.
“The people of Ohio have absolutely bowled us over with their enthusiasm, passion for beer and warm welcome,” says James Watt, cofounder of BrewDog. “It’s awesome to know we’ve made the right choice with where to lay the foundations for our American home.”
Additionally in 2016, Texas-based grocery distributor McLane Co. plans to construct a $38 million grocery distribution center in Findlay. It will serve seven states and eventually employ 425 people.
“We’re thrilled to locate our 22nd grocery distribution center in Findlay,” says Mike Youngblood, president of McLane Grocery Distribution. “The values and work ethic of the community fit perfectly with McLane. The state and local assistance was one of the reasons we chose Ohio. The business- friendly environment was critical to our selection.”