“They looked at several different locations,” noted Dr. Esmond Joseph, the director of the new r&d plant. “Obviously, they looked in Chicago, and we have a facility in Auburn, Maine, and we looked there. And we looked at our facility in Rancho Cucamonga, which is in California.”
Instead, they settled on an expansion somewhere else: at the company’s existing plant at 445 N. Dakota Ave. in Lake Alfred. Although Lake Alfred is a small community, not as much impacted by the kind of rapid development experienced in other parts of Central Florida, it had its benefits, Joseph said.
“We finally settled on Florida,” he said, adding that Polk County’s proximity between two international airports in Orlando and Tampa proved to be a good selling point.
“As a company that has facilities all around the U.S. and the world, you have to be able to have communication and transportation easily in and out of the facility,” he said. “Florida is not too bad in terms of location and getting our productions to facilities around the country.”
An even bigger selling point, he said, is that given the choices between the Midwest, Northern New England and Central Florida, it seemed easiest to recruit good talent to the Sunshine State.
“We also felt that in Florida, and in Central Florida where we’re located, we’re getting the quality type of talent that we needed to support a lab in our facility,” he said. “Chicago brings some benefits, but there are also down sides, and expenses are one of the big things in Chicago – the cost. With any big city, you’re going to pay a lot more for real estate and everything else, and that’s not the case with a community like Lake Alfred.”
It also is a community people want to live in, he added.
“It seems like people would more readily come to Florida than go to Auburn, Maine,” he said. “You have to think about that — where do you get the quality in terms of the human resources that you need. I’ve worked for this company for a year, and I’m coming from the upper Midwest, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the cold is absolutely a big factor.”
The new r&d facility just opened its doors on April 5.
“We just celebrated our grand opening,” said Maggie Hardy, the company’s marketing director.
The Mizkan Research & Development Facility is expected to increase speed to market and offer quicker turnaround for the sauces, wines and other products that Mizkan makes. The new facility will boost employment at the Lake Alfred plant to about 50 people, while the new 2,000 square foot facility will include a large lab area providing pilot scale manufacturing of products.
“Our parent company is from Japan,” Joseph said. “Our main product lines were vinegars and wines, and we’ve seen enough growth that it now includes mustards, sauces, barbecue sauces, and Asian and Japanese sauces for the Asian market. The Asian and Japanese market is significant and growing by leaps and bounds.”
So strong, he added, that Mizkan has done well despite the U.S. recession.
“It’s a very wide and vast product line, but because of the tremendous growth we have seen over the past five years, we are also looking at maybe expanding that product line,” Joseph said. “We have done well throughout this economy downturn.”
That’s why the opened the r&d facility.
“This has been in the works for several years,” he said. “This is our first r&d facility in the U.S. and in Europe, so it will service all the plants and the facilities we have. The facility is approximately 2,000 square feet — and we’ve already started to think about upgrading it. We just opened it last week and we’ve already started to think about how we could upgrade it.”
That’s another reason Lake Alfred was chosen, he said.
“That’s one of the factors about being in Lake Alfred,” he said. “Land is accessible here. You always have to think in terms of growth, and Mizkan has seen significant growth over the past few years. We have to think about how do we service all of our facilities in the U.S. Previously we used to outsource our r&d, but now we do it all in-house, and we have a large product line, too. Now we can centralize all of that and bring it down here.”
To learn more about Mizkan, call 863-956-0391.