GS Plastic Optics to expand, add 15 jobs

GS Plastic Optics, a Rochester-based manufacturer of precision polymer optics, has been awarded a contract to produce optical components for a COVID-19 antibody testing platform developed by LightDeck Diagnostics, a Boulder, Colo.-based diagnostic-testing company.

LightDeck was awarded a $35.1 million contract to increase production capacity for its point-of-care product platform through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. GS Plastics (GSPO) has been chosen as the lead source for the waveguide, which is a key component to LightDeck’s point-of-care platform detecting the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen and other indications. The waveguide will be injection molded in the Rochester facility.

GS Plastics officials noted that $5 million of the contract awarded to LightDeck will be allocated to equipment and facilities expansion at the GSPO Rochester location. An 8,000-square-foot expansion of the existing injection molding building will be home to additional presses, tooling, automation and ancillary equipment dedicated to the production of the LightDeck waveguide. The funding will enable GSPO to support LightDeck’s increase in production capacity to 1 million waveguides per month by the fall of 2022. Additionally, the project will create as many as 15 new jobs on the GSPO optics team.

“Today more than ever, our goal is to support the medical community in their great strides to improve the healthcare for our nation. Particularly during this pandemic, point-of-care testing is at the forefront of our minds, and we are dedicated to supplying precision components that are built to spec,” said GSPO CEO Andy Germanow. “We are proud to be a trusted partner with LightDeck.”

The original contract awarded to LightDeck has been funded through HHS/ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

“During the several years we have worked together with GSPO, we have built a trusting, collaborative relationship with their engineering and production teams,” said Nick Traggis, CEO of LightDeck. “Their impeccable attention to detail aligns very well with our own product strategy, and they stand as a powerful domestic partner to support the scale of our testing capabilities.”

GS Plastic Optics specializes in the custom manufacture of precision polymer optics for use in consumer, medical, machine vision and biomedical and analytical instrument marketplaces, as well as military and civilian night-vision and visible-range sighting industries.

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Rochester Clinical Research to double space, staff count

In addition to its existing 10,000-square-foot suite in the lower level of the Laurelton building, the company’s operations will expand to include 15,000 square feet on the second floor of the building. (provided)
In addition to its existing 10,000-square-foot suite in the lower level of the Laurelton building, the company’s operations will expand to include 15,000 square feet on the second floor of the building. (provided)

Rochester Clinical Research is more than doubling its footprint on Helendale Road.

A leader in COVID-19 vaccine development locally, RCR’s staff count has grown more than 100 percent in the last 18 months. The family-owned and nurse-founded business is working with several sponsors for multiple COVID-19 vaccines.

“Operating in an era of COVID-19 has been challenging for many business owners,” company President Adam Larrabee said in a statement. “I am proud of the team we have built for rising to the occasion to fight this worldwide pandemic.”

In addition to its existing 10,000-square-foot suite in the lower level of the Laurelton building, the company’s operations will expand to include 15,000 square feet on the second floor of the building. RCR will add nearly 25 new employees to support its growth.

Rochester Clinical Research conducts a multitude of studies in its Therapeutic, Vaccine and Device Divisions, as well as studies with partners through its new Community Research Division. Some of the current work includes studies for Lyme disease, RSV, Flu, COVID, migraine relief, smoking cessation, weight loss, CMV and a variety of other pediatric studies.

A new space and additional staff will allow for additional medical advancements to take place in Rochester.

“The Rochester community is full of talented people willing to help. Between volunteers and our employees, it has been the perfect place for RCR to grow and we are so excited to continue advancing medicine with the help of the Rochester community,” Larrabee said.

The company was founded in 1994 and has conducted more than 900 clinical trials involving more than 50,000 study volunteers.

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eHealth Technologies expands to Virginia

EHealth Technologies Inc., a leading provider of medical record/image retrieval and clinical intelligence services, plans to open a site in Virginia in 2021. The expansion will mean 160 new employees in the next five years, company officials said.

Working with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, eHealth has secured a move-in ready facility in Scott County in Southwestern Virginia’s e-Region. The area boasts state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure, an outstanding labor force and a low-cost business environment, officials said in a statement.

Diversification and repetition of network systems, workforce and operations services will allow eHealth to continue to grow and maintain a competitive advantage in the health information technology industry. By expanding to Virginia, the Rochester firm is able to access a highly trained workforce enabling it to continue to grow while providing a mirrored facility for enhanced security and reliability to clients.

“We’re thrilled to be moving forward with this expansion into Virginia where we are able to access a very motivated and talented workforce through an almost turnkey solution from an infrastructure perspective,” said eHealth CEO Jeff Markin. “We’ve enjoyed working with the VEDP team who has delivered on all of our needs allowing us to move very quickly with a win-win solution for our clients and their patients. Enhancing the reliability of services for our customers and their critically-ill patients is of the utmost importance to our team.”

EHealth Technologies has nearly 300 employees at its Rochester headquarters and roughly 90 in Hyderabad, India. The company has experienced significant growth since its inception nearly 15 years ago and expects to double in size in the next three years through investments in sales, technology and product development, officials said.

In March, eHealth announced a $41 million investment made by Aldrich Capital Partners to support the company’s growth and development.

“EHealth Technologies fills an important role in the continuum of care that helps patients gain faster access to life-saving treatment and complex surgeries,” said ACP Managing Partner Mirza Baig. “We remain committed to supporting businesses and communities based in geographies outside traditional ‘investment hot spots’ and this investment by eHealth Technologies into Southwest Virginia continues that mission.”

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Zweigle’s completes Phase I of expansion

Zweigle’s Inc. on Friday cut the ribbon on an ongoing expansion project at the company’s Plymouth Avenue facility. This phase of the expansion included the addition of 15,000 square feet to the company’s advanced manufacturing plant.

The entire project will allow the company to meet the growing demand in markets outside of New York state for its private label and co-packing business. Zweigle’s had considered moving the operation out of state but chose to stay in the region due to state support. The company has committed to hiring up to 33 new employees; at least 12 of those positions will be reserved for workers impacted by poverty; almost 60 jobs will be retained.

“We are proud to continue our 140-year legacy in the state of New York. With assistance from Empire State Development, we have completed Phase I of our expansion project, which will allow us to provide new quality employment opportunities for residents in the city of Rochester and continue the growth we’ve experienced over the last five years,” said Zweigle’s CEO Julie Camardo. “This project would not have been possible without help from ESD, Monroe County, the city of Rochester and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.”

“We are proud to continue our 140-year legacy in the state of New York.," said Zweigle’s CEO Julie Camardo, center. (provided)
“We are proud to continue our 140-year legacy in the state of New York.,” said Zweigle’s CEO Julie Camardo, center. (provided)

ESD provided support for the expansion project with up to $600,000 through the Excelsior Jobs Tax Credit Program in exchange for job creation commitments. The agency also will provide $250,000 through the regional Upstate Revitalization Initiative; another $150,000 will come from a Capital Grant and the New York State Job Development Authority (JDA) assisted the project with $1.86 million.

Phase one of the project included property acquisition, building demolition, renovations, new construction and the purchase of machinery and equipment. Zweigle’s plans to further invest in additional improvements to the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the city of Rochester over the next few years.

The total project cost was placed at close to $18.8 million. The city of Rochester, Monroe County, Rochester Gas and Electric and Greater Rochester Enterprise also assisted with this project.

“Zweigle’s is a homegrown food manufacturer with deep roots in our community that has played an integral part in Rochester’s long history of innovation,” said GRE President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt. “Our region’s fully integrated supply chain and talented workforce helps Zweigle’s and more than 250 smart food and beverage manufacturers thrive in Rochester, N.Y.”

Established in Rochester in 1880, Zweigle’s is a 140-year-old, fifth-generation family-owned business whose CEO is the original founder’s great-great-granddaughter. The company’s renowned products include chicken sausage, classic sausage, deli meats, grilled chicken, meatballs and its world-famous natural casing and skinless hot dogs.

“For more than 100 years, Zweigle’s has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the city of Rochester,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler. “The enduring growth of this family-owned business reflects our strategic investment in keeping renowned companies and their unparalleled products in New York state, where they can continue to thrive and create top-quality jobs.”

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IEC acquires Jetview Drive facility

IEC Electronics Corp. has purchased an 86,000-square-foot facility in Rochester to provide additional capacity and access to a “larger pool of qualified resources” to support future organic growth.

The Jetview Drive facility represents a key building block for the Wayne County manufacturer, said IEC President and CEO Jeffrey Schlarbaum, because it establishes a Rochester campus, enabling the company to tap into both the eastside and westside of the Greater Rochester market.

“The goal is to consolidate our specialty metals operation from its current Rochester location on Emerson Street and combine it with an expanded electronic assembly operation,” Schlarbaum explained. “We believe this new facility provides an ideal footprint and location to support our growing customer demand and more importantly, provides us the ability to recruit skilled resources across the entire Rochester region, addressing a critical need to support ongoing double-digit organic growth.”

IEC is a provider of electronic manufacturing services to advanced technology companies that produce life-saving and mission-critical products for the medical, industrial, aerospace and defense sectors. The company specializes in delivering technical solutions for the custom manufacture of complex full system assemblies by providing on-site analytical testing laboratories, custom design and test engineering services combined with a broad array of manufacturing services encompassing electronics, interconnect solutions and precision metalworking.

“Our focus remains on strengthening our capabilities to meet the high complexity manufacturing needs of our customers, who rely on IEC as an electronic manufacturing services provider for life-saving and mission-critical products,” Schlarbaum said. “We continue to see increased interest from the marketplace and believe that this expansion of our manufacturing footprint into Rochester positions us well to achieve continued organic growth as we look ahead into fiscal 2021 and beyond.”

Last summer, IEC broke ground on a $22 million, 150,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility a few miles from its Newark facility. The company last month reported an increase in sales and earnings in the third quarter this year, despite the challenging economic and public health landscape of the past several months.

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Sands Family Foundation gives $3 million to double nursing program at FLCC

The Sands Family Foundation is giving $3 million to Finger Lakes Community College, providing the largest gift in that institution’s history and enabling the college to double its nursing program.

The gift is expected to cover almost half the cost of an expanded nursing wing on the FLCC main campus in Canandaigua, and allow the college to eventually double its enrollment to 80 new students in the registered nursing associate degree program each fall. FLCC will also launch a licensed practical nursing certificate that can be completed in a year. That program could offer as many as 56 LPN openings.

“Nurses provide the foundation for the excellent health care we enjoy in the Finger Lakes region,” said FLCC President Robert Nye. “We are grateful to the Sands Family Foundation for its significant investment in the people who will maintain that high level of care for years to come.”

The college and the foundation announced the gift Thursday morning.

“Medical institutions play a major role in the social and economic vitality of communities. The Sands family is proud to support FLCC’s efforts in elevating their nursing program to attract more nurses who will support our excellent hospitals in our surrounding communities,” said Richard Sands, co-chairman of the Sands Family Foundation.

 Thompson Health will partner with the community college to provide instruction for the nursing students, who are in high demand.

According to the NY State Labor Department, the need for registered nurses in the Finger Lakes region will rise to 15,660 by 2026, an increase of 18.2 percent  in a decade.

“We are looking forward to being able to say yes to many more of our applicants, starting in 2021. This means more students finding good jobs when they finish here,” Nye said.

Construction of the new Sands Center for Allied Health at FLCC is expected to begin in 2021 with part of the center opening that fall. The remainder will be completed throughout the 2021-22 school year. The wing will include a lab, patient bays, classrooms, meeting rooms and faculty offices. A health and wellness center for students will also be included.

The Ontario Board of Supervisors was scheduled to amend its capital plans Thursday  night to include the $6.8 million college wing. Additional funding will come from the FLCC Student Corp. ($250,000,) the FLCC Association ($200,000,) and the state ($3.4 million.)

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Anytime Fitness plans to expand in Western New York

Anytime Fitness has announced its intention to expand in the Rochester and Buffalo areas, boosting its numbers locally to as many as 13 gyms in three years.

Currently, the 24-7 gym has three locations in  Greater Rochester, including one  downtown, one in Canandaigua and one in Macedon, Wayne County.  It also has two in the Buffalo area, where it plans to expand to 15.

The gyms feature equipment and offerings similar to other gyms, but in a more intimate setting, usually occupying 4,500 to 6,000 square feet. Members have key fobs that allow them to enter the gym at any time, though there are group workouts and classes at specific times, too. The same key fob allows members to enter any of the 4,000 other Anytime Fitness locations around the United States.

Anytime Fitness gyms tend to pop up in strip malls. Photo supplied
Anytime Fitness gyms tend to pop up in strip malls. (Provided photo)

The gyms might be considered no-frills in some ways. While there are no locker rooms, there are individual bathrooms with individual showers attached. The gym can be unstaffed at times, said Director of Franchise Development Tom Gilles, so it can’t have areas where people congregate that can’t be seen on security cameras.

“Two things are not part of our model because they’re money losers: child care and smoothie bars,” Gilles added.  Pre-made and machine-vended snacks are available, he said, and add-ins, such as protein powder, are available on an honor basis.

Anytime Fitness gyms are small enough – Gilles said each one can operate with fewer than 1,000 members – that people connect to each other and encourage each other to continue working out through “good old-fashioned peer pressure.”

Gilles said, “We all need kind of a loving hand, a nudge, or a kick in the pants. We feel with the size and shape of our gym and connectiveness, we can keep people on their fitness journeys.”

Anytime Fitness centers start with two full-time employees, a manager and a personal trainer. They tend to operate like the corner gym, Gilles said, popping up in neighborhoods and strip malls.

More information on the gyms, and in obtaining franchises, is available on the company’s website.

[email protected]/ (585) 363-7275

Webster distributor to expand

A Webster parts distributor has broken ground on an $850,000 expansion to accommodate business growth.

Fritz Ruebeck, center, leads the groundbreaking of a 12,000-square-foot expansion at Classic Automation's Webster facility. (by Velvet Spicer)
Fritz Ruebeck, center, leads the groundbreaking of a 12,000-square-foot expansion at Classic Automation’s Webster facility. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

Classic Automation, founded in 2003 by Fritz Ruebeck, will expand its Salt Road warehouse through the addition of 12,000 square feet. The non-industry specific supplier of automation parts currently is operating from a 41,000-square-foot facility.

“We’ve been growing consistently every year and we just reached the capacity of the warehouse and we need a lot of inventory to take care of our customers’ needs,” Ruebeck said.

Classic Automation fuels customers that range from manufacturers to wastewater treatment plants to cruise ships and prisons. The company specializes in parts for older automation systems.

“The key reason why people want to keep them running and not simply replace them like (they do) a desktop computer every three years is that the program that is in there is specific to their machinery,” Ruebeck explained of his company’s purpose and growth. “To move that to different hardware is very complicated and costly and could result in a lot of down time. So people simply want a spare part to keep their machinery and their operations doing what it was doing before.”

On hand for Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking were Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Inc. President and CEO Bob Duffy, Assemblyman Mark Johns, R-Webster, and Webster Town Supervisor Ron Nesbitt.

The site previously was owned by Xerox Corp. but was abandoned around 2007 and stood empty for five years.

“It was something you couldn’t walk through,” Nesbitt recalled. “It was full of asbestos and mold, and we didn’t know whether or not we would take this building down and start from scratch again. But Fritz came along and he had a vision and he built that vision into what we have today.”

Classic Automation has outgrown it's 41,000-square-foot Webster facility. (by Velvet Spicer)
Classic Automation has outgrown it’s 41,000-square-foot Webster facility. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

Ruebeck founded the parts distributor in his Webster home following a career with Taylor Instrument Inc. In 2006, Classic Automation moved to a location on Monroe Avenue in Rochester. The company had 10,000 parts and four employees. Seven years later, upon the move to Salt Road, Classic Automation had grown to 18 employees and an inventory of 100,000 parts.

Ruebeck said the company has experienced double-digit growth each year since its inception. Classic Automation employs some 52 people.

“The new expansion will almost double our inventory capacity and let us expand our test lab space,” Ruebeck said. “This is a major investment for us that will strengthen our competitiveness and let us continue to grow in this area.”

Dinolfo touted Ruebeck’s spirit and entrepreneurship.

“He brought good paying jobs to so many people in Monroe County. And he brought something that is necessary to keep manufacturing going,” Dinolfo said. “I know that companies like yours are in great demand, but you’ve made a commitment to Monroe County.”

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Wickham Farms is moving to bigger location around the corner in Penfield

Wickham Farms in Penfield will temporarily close on Sunday and reopen at a new location on Aug. 17.

The agricultural entertainment business is moving three-tenths of a mile to the east from its current location at 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Point Road, where it has been since 1986. It’s moving to a 120-acre farm at 1315 Sweets Corners Road, which the Wickham family has used for some time to  grow produce sold in its community-supported agriculture program, and as the site of its u-pick apple orchard.

The Wickhams broke ground at Sweets Corners Road in November to create two new buildings and a new Barnyard Fun Area. The fun area alone will be at least as large as the eight-acre Wickham Farms site that is closing.

The new site will open with the Wickham Farms’ annual Sunflower Spectacular. The farm will feature attractions such as a jumping pillow, kiddie train rides, giant mountain slides and tunnels, playgrounds, a corn pit, mini golf, corn mazes, apple cannons, and rubber duck races.

Wickham Farms charges a one-price admission covering all its attractions and sells season passes that cover from the August opening to Halloween, when the farm closes for the year. Guests visiting just to pick apples and pumpkins, visit the Wickham corn maze, or buy  produce or treats from the Wickham farm store do not have to pay an admission charge.

Hours at the business this week will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit the farm’s website or Facebook page.

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Wegmans expands North Carolina plans

Wegmans has announced it plans to build a store in Wake Forest, NC, which would be its 15th store on the drawing board or under construction.

The company now operates 98 stores.

The Wake Forest store would be approximately 11 miles away from the supermarket it plans to open next year in Raleigh, its first store in that state. Three other North Carolina stores are planned for Chapel Hill, Cary and West Cary.

“We look forward to the day when we can greet new customers and welcome back those who have shopped with us in other areas before,” said Ralph Uttaro, Wegmans’ senior vice president of real estate, in a prepared statement. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to bring incredible customer service, restaurant-quality prepared foods, and consistent low prices to Wake Forest in the future.”

In the coming year, Wegmans also plans to open stores in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, and Virginia Beach, Va. One of those stores or the one in Raleigh will be the 100th Wegmans store, but the company has not announced the specific dates for their openings.

Wegmans said it would add the Wake Forest plans to its website soon, and announce the approximate date of opening after formal approvals are obtained.

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