News Articles

Sysco eyeing Lakeville for food distribution center
April 2010

LAKEVILLE — The former Lakeville Hospital site may yet be reborn, this time as a food distribution center.

Sysco Boston, which has a 480,000 square-foot, 50-year-old facility in Norton, is looking to move into bigger quarters and has set its sights on two potential sites in Lakeville, the hospital property and Lakeville Country Club.

But much must be done before the $90 million project gets started, including meetings with the company and town over what kind of “tax incentive financing” or TIF the town is willing to grant over a period of up to 20 years. This would go along with the state's offers of an investment tax credit that can go as high as 10 percent of the company's expenditures.

“Sysco Boston LLC is involved in selling, marketing and distribution to restaurants and places like Fenway Park, the PawSox (McCoy Stadium), BU, BC and MIT. We sell product lines, including equipment and supplies,” Fred Casinelli, president and chief operating officer of Sysco Boston LLC, said.

“The company serves 400,000 customers and began in 1969 with 1,000 employees. Now, Sysco employs 47,000 employees in the United States and Canada,” he said.

“The company's facility in Norton carries nearly 13,000 products for restaurant and food service customers, including bakery, beverage, dairy, canned and dry foods, deli, fruits, vegetables, produce, poultry, meat, seafood, supplies and equipment,” Casinelli said. “We need to expand. Our facility in Norton is inefficient. We need to move into a larger facility. We need to move as fast as we're allowed to move. We are motivated to get it moving.”

Casinelli explained that no manufacturing or processing would be done on site and it would strictly be a storing and shipping facility.

Thomas Bond, the project manager who is charged with constructing the new buildings, said half of the structure would be a giant refrigeration unit.

“To keep frozen foods, you need a constant temperature of minus-10,” Bond explained. “This will have to be a specialized building that is big enough to store 13,000 items. We'll include test kitchens so customers can test the items we sell.

“The project will be an estimated $90 million with $70 million for construction and $20 million for new equipment and machinery,” he said. “Realistically, that's a small figure for a specialized building that will create that much refrigeration. We want to put the money into the community, because they eat out in restaurants and then the restaurants have to buy from us.”

Bond explained that Sysco has an agreement with National Development, the company which bought the hospital at auction with hopes of attracting a Target department store, a Super Stop & Shop and a Chili's restaurant to the portion of the site facing Route 105.

In the back of the property, the company hoped to develop a residential area, originally designated for 55-and-over residents. Those plans deteriorated when Target pulled out of the project and Town Meeting voted down a proposal that would have lifted the over-55 restriction from the zoning.

“There are a lot of questions there, but we are doing our due diligence at the hospital site,” Bond said. “We hope to purchase some property in the next three to four months and it will take about 18 months to complete the buildings.

“The existing (hospital) buildings are a challenge and the site is a well-used site. That adds to the cost and time to do the project. We have an agreement to investigate the property to see if it is suitable.”

Chuck Fraser, senior vice president of the company, said that the move to Lakeville would include Sysco's 830 full-time employees and that 75 new jobs would be created. The average Sysco salary is $50,000 with a comprehensive benefit package.

“We have a low turnover and create long-term jobs,” Fraser said. “Sysco Boston and its employees spend $1.5 million annually with local vendors and establishments. We have 360 registered vehicles, which will generate excise tax revenue for the town. We have tractors that we keep for five years and trailers that we keep for 10 years.”

Lynn Tokarczyk, president of Business Development Strategies Inc., will work to get an agreement between the town and the company. This will be one of the largest industrial projects in Southeastern Mass.

Sysco will apply for assistance from the Massachusetts Economic Development Incentive Program, which is designed to help companies invest in the state. The state administers the program and is partnered with the town. To be eligible, Lakeville had to be part of the “economic target area,” which it is with Achushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Mattapoisett, New Bedford and Rochester.

“This project is on the fast track. The company must apply to the state, meet with the local TIF team (to negotiate a tax incentive number agreeable to the company and town), go to the Board of Selectmen for a positive recommendation to Town Meeting, receive a positive vote at Town Meeting and then present it to the state for a final vote,” Tokarczyk said.

Selectmen will appoint the local TIF committee Monday night and the company is expected to submit a proposal by early next week. Its timetable is to meet the state's final meeting of the year on June 30 with all its approvals in hand.