Mark Troyer is out of the potato chip business, and has been since selling Troyer Farms Potato Products Inc. in December 2008.
But Troyer, who still grows more than 300 acres of potatoes a year, has been keeping a close eye lately on his former chip plant, located on Route 97 south of Waterford.
And he’s encouraged by what he sees.
Troyer, who sold the Troyer Farms business to York-based Bickel Snack Foods Inc. in 2008, said he sold the business with the hope that Bickel would keep plant and the employees in Waterford.
That didn’t happen.
Bickel closed the plant in the spring of 2011, moving the production line to York.
Troyer has said repeatedly that he felt badly about the loss of jobs and the effect on his community.
“It was never about cashing out and getting as much money as possible. We turned down an offer because we knew the company was going to leave. We thought Bickel was going to stay forever.”
Troyer, who did not sell the building and real estate to Bickel, sold them earlier this year to Minnesota-based KLN Family Brands.
And as he watches the company renovate his old chip plant, pouring millions of dollars into the facility, Troyer sees the promise of a happier ending.
“Thursday, I counted 51 cars in the (chip plant) parking lot. That was just construction workers,” Troyer said. “They are going full-bore. KLN, I expect them to be tough negotiators, but they are committed to spending money here. They are spending a bunch of money and doing things in a very first-class manner. They are talking about 250 jobs in a couple years.”
Troyer said he was especially heartened recently to run into a couple of his former employees who have found new jobs with KLN, which makes private label chips for companies such as Target and Panera Bread.
“I gave them a big hug,” he said. “I don’t even want to call them employees. They were co-workers of mine. They were friends. “
— Jim Martin