Offering a centrally located position as well as access to transportation, natural resources and a strong supply chain, northwest Ohio is becoming an important area for food processing and agribusiness. According to the economic development groups JobsOhio and Regional Growth Partnership, Ohio is one of the leading manufacturers of food, equipment and agricultural products in the United States, employing more than 60,000 people in food processing and agribusiness, including more than 12,000 in the Toledo area. Nearly 250 food companies reside in this region, including the Campbell’s plant located in Napoleon, Cooper Farms in Van Wert, Hirzel Canning Co. and Farms in Northwood and Lakeview Farms in Delphos.

The Campbell’s Napoleon plant occupies a total of 949 acres, with 56 acres under roof. It produces 70 percent of the company’s beverages and processes more than 80 million pounds of regionally sourced vegetables annually for V7, the product that, when combined with tomatoes, is used to produce V8. The plant also relies on regional farmers for some of the carrots and potatoes used in the company’s soups. Currently, the facility is working toward several ambitious sustainability goals, including reducing 50 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product processed, reducing 50 percent of its waste water and recycling 95 percent of its solid waste by 2020. Sixty acres of solar panels currently supply up to 15 percent of the plant’s electricity.

Cooper Farms sells a variety of fully cooked and ready-to-cook turkey, ham and chicken products to customers throughout North America. The Van Wert plant is one of the company’s four located in Ohio, where it converts products from farm to fork. The plant is also working to put into place sustainable energy sources. Chief Operating Officer Gary Cooper says the company has three 1.5 megawatt wind turbines that provide 75 percent of the electricity for the plant. The company is also slated to present President Obama with the 2014 National Thanksgiving Turkey.

Hirzel Canning Co. and Farms produces canned tomatoes, tomato products, pasta sauces, salsas, juices and sauerkraut. The plant processes and packs tomatoes for the Dei Fratelli label, selling its products primarily in the Midwest, Central and Southeastern states. Northwood Plant Manager Otto Hirzel says the company prides itself on not remanufacturing any of its consumer products from tomato paste. The plant uses a unique bulk aseptic storage system to store diced and crushed tomatoes.

Lakeview Farms produces dips, gelatins, cheese spreads, desserts and sour cream. The company recently announced it is consolidating its operations at a facility in Delphos. The plant is undergoing a $12 million renovation, which includes capital improvements and new technology.