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Eastern Panhandle won't get big milk plant

January 13, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A $100 million milk factory is not in the future for the Eastern Panhandle, according to state and local officials.

Robert T. Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said officials from the HP Hood dairy company had been looking at the Eastern Panhandle as a possible site for a new factory but decided late last month to look elsewhere.

"My understanding is they had considered this area but changed their focus to farther west," said Crawford, adding he was not directly involved with the Hood search.

John Snider, director of business industrial development for the West Virginia Development Office in Charleston, said his office had held several discussions with Hood officials over the last couple months but said it appears the company will choose another state for its facility.

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Snider would not discuss specifics of the Hood talks but said Hood officials were shown several sites in West Virginia, including the Eastern Panhandle.

Snider said market location was a likely factor in eliminating West Virginia from consideration.

"Milk is not something you can carry 500 miles," said Snider.

Hood Communications Manager Lynne Seeley, in Chelsea, Mass., confirmed the company is looking at several possible sites from Virginia to Massachusetts but would not describe any specifics of the search. Seeley said a decision is expected in the next two months and that she was not aware that any states had been eliminated from consideration.

"It's much too early to comment on specifics of the project," said Seeley.

The Northern Virginia Daily in Front Royal, Va. reported Tuesday that Hood is considering building a $100 million milk factory in Virginia's Northern Shenandoah Valley. The paper said the factory would produce extended shelf-life milk and other products.

The paper said the Virginia counties of Shenandoah and Frederick were being considered, as were locations in West Virginia and Maryland.

Seeley declined comment on the article.

Tim Troxell, assistant director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said confidentiality rules prevented him from saying if Hood had looked at the Hagerstown as a possible site for the plant.

"We can't comment on any clients we are or aren't working with," said Troxell.

The 153-year-old Hood company is based in the Boston suburb of Chelsea, Mass. and is the largest dairy processor in the Northeast, said Seeley. The company's product list includes milk, cream, coffee cream, chocolate milk, fruit juices, cottage cheese, ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Seeley said Hood employs 1,300 people at seven facilities in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and upstate New York.

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