LiDestri announces plans to reopen, expand shuttered Pennsauken site
Less than a year after it closed operations in Pennsauken, LiDestri Foods Inc. is reopening and expanding its warehouse.
The Pennsauken plant had employed 160 workers — including 40 temporary employees — when it closed last May, according to Dave Stoklosa, director of business development and government relations for the mid-Atlantic region of LiDestri. But it has hired 13 full-time employees to get the existing 110,370-square-foot warehouse and new 7,500-square-foot warming bays up and running by June, and it plans to hire more than 100 full-time workers within three years.
Stoklosa said LiDestri closed its operations at the Pennsauken manufacturing facility — which previously produced and distributed sauces and dips — because its plant in Rochester, N.Y., did the same thing, and "having two major plants close together didn't make sense." He said the Pennsauken warehouse will be restructured into a private-label beverage plant, since the company purchased Lansdale, Pa.-based Ziegler's last April.
LiDestri is also bringing its imported olive oil operations to Pennsauken, which will use the new warming bays. The company recently invested a combined $20 million in its Lansdale and Pennsauken warehouses, Stoklosa said.
While LiDestri did not receive any financial incentives from the state, Camden County or Pennsauken, Stoklosa said the township and county "have been bending over backwards for us … leaning out the permitting process and giving approvals to make modifications to the site."
According to Pennsauken Mayor John Kneib, it typically takes a business three to four weeks to receive approval from a township’s committee and zoning and planning boards. But Kneib said LiDestri was “outside the norm in regards to timing,” since Pennsauken made sure that “if it had to go through planning on Monday, it would get to zoning on Wednesday and then be right on our agenda.”
“Saying we’re ecstatic is an understatement. No one likes to see an employer pick up and leave,” Kneib said. “Their new diversification gives more stability to what they’re doing … and that means a more long-term relationship with the township. They know they can pick up the phone and call us.”
Stoklosa said LiDestri will be asking for a deferment of a property tax increase, based upon its ability to get plants up and running, create jobs and attract new business. But he said even if the company doesn't win a deferment, the improved plant is in the perfect location to pursue contracts with local food and beverage companies like Campbell Soup Co. and PepsiCo.
"We're looking at a lot of different things other than beverages for Pennsauken. Actually, olive oil is a departure from a beverage," Stoklosa said. "The plan is to completely fill this space, and we're not shy about getting more space if we do fill it."