Thursday, June 24, 2004

Produce firm crossing river

Club Chef to relocate in Covington, bringing 350 jobs

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - A Cincinnati produce company will relocate here and bring at least 350 jobs and a payroll of $8.5 million.

The Covington City Commission unanimously approved an incentive package Tuesday night for Club Chef, a fresh produce processor and distributor whose customers are restaurant chains and food service distribution centers in 15 states.

Club Chef plans to move into 200,000 square feet of a building on Madison Pike in south Covington by the first of the year, said president and CEO William Schuler.

Corporex Cos., a Covington-based property developer, owns the building. Club Chef will initially occupy about half of it, giving the company room to grow.

"We intend to expand" beyond 350 jobs, Schuler said

Schuler was unable to say Tuesday how many jobs will be added.

"We look very much forward to moving our processing business to Covington, bringing the jobs and payroll with it, building our facility and forming a long-term relationship with the city," Schuler said.

Covington City Commissioner Jerry Bamberger welcomed the company, saying "jobs are the most important thing affecting the quality of life for our citizens."

Club Chef was unable to expand at its existing location on Bank Street in Cincinnati's West End, Schuler said.

"It's always a difficult decision to relocate any business," Schuler said. "Especially one that is in Cincinnati. Our roots are in Cincinnati. But we need to expand the business. Our business is growing. Where we are at, we are unable to do either.

"The city of Cincinnati is a good place to do business, but the city does not have the acreage or the property within the city to accommodate our needs," he said. "Covington had the perfect location and an existing building that we are going to retrofit and make a state-of-the-art processing facility."

The company looked at several buildings and pieces of property throughout Greater Cincinnati, but it needed an existing 200,000-square-foot building it could move into, said Jerry Atkins, president of Property Advisors, a Cincinnati real estate consulting firm that advised Club Chef on the deal.

City and state incentives will total about $1 million over five years, said Covington Assistant Manager Andy Riffe.

The incentives include a $400,000 loan that Club Chef will repay and a 5-year, 40 percent abatement on Covington's payroll tax, Riffe said. The loan will be used to purchase equipment and prepare the building for Club Chef's processing operations.

Riffe said Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky made improvements to its systems to accommodate Club Chef, which uses up to 600 gallons of water a minute in processing fresh produce.

"The Sanitation District helped make this happen," Riffe said.



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