Castelli America Eyes Grant, Expansion For Blockville Plant

Castelli America is seeking county assistance to help purchase new equipment at its Blockville plant. The company is looking to add 50 new employees in an expansion project. P-J file photo by Jimmy McCarthy

MAYVILLE — After taking over Empire Specialty Cheese Co. last year, Castelli America is ready for expansion at its Blockville plant.

In doing so, the company is requesting county assistance through the submission of a grant to the state on its behalf.

County legislators on the Planning and Economic Development Committee gave their approval on Wednesday to authorize a grant application to the state Office of Community Renewal for Community Development Block Grant funding. Following their arrival, Castelli America requested the county submit an application to finance a portion of the cost for equipment and working capital.

With the expansion, Castelli America will look to create around 50 new jobs. Around 90 jobs were retained when Castelli America came in to acquire Empire Specialty Cheese Co. last year.

The Chautauqua Regional Economic Development Corporation is assisting in the facilitation of the project and requested the county provide CDBG funding in order to create a deferred loan and a term loan to Castelli America.

“They’re looking to bring on new jobs as part of the expansion. It’s good news,” said Chairman George Borrello, R-Hanover.

In September, Castelli America, a new subsidiary of Nuova Castelli Group, cut the ribbon on its first U.S. location after acquiring Empire Specialty Cheese Co. and its Blockville facility.

At the time, President Paul Bensabat said the project wouldn’t have come to fruition without state and local officials assisting in their endeavor. Bensabat acknowledged that the deal was on a fast track after Empire Specialty Cheese ran into financial and wastewater problems.

In return for Castelli’s job and investment commitments, Empire State Development provided a $500,000 capital grant and a $5.5 million loan to upgrade the plant into a state-of-the-art dairy manufacturing facility.

The company continued loan payments that Empire Specialty Cheese had received, which included a $600,000 grant from New York state.

With legislative approval, the county executive would be authorized to submit a grant application for $750,000 to the Office of Community Renewal to support Castelli America’s expansion project. The resolution will go before the full County Legislature at Wednesday’s meeting in Mayville.

Nuova Castelli is a producer and distributor of Italy’s famous cheeses. Bensabat said Castelli is the second-largest cheese manufacturer in Italy and the first manufacturer of protected designation of origin cheeses including Parmigiano Reggiano, parmesan cheese, and Grana Padano, a hard, semi-fat cheese. The company also produces Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, or buffalo mozzarella.

In Europe, Nuova Castelli has 14 manufacturing facilities and 11 distribution centers. Bensabat said the Blockville facility will become their base platform in the U.S. as they look toward future expansion.