With expansion underway, Catania Oils is bullish on Ayer – Lowell Sun
AYER – Excavators are in place for a 51,000 square foot expansion project at Catania Oils, one of Ayer’s largest employers.
Depending on how they choose to use the space created by their latest expansion, the company could double its overall production. However, some decisions remain to be made.
Catania’s expansion was made possible in part by a tax incentive funding agreement adopted at the city’s annual meeting in April. In exchange for the TIF, Catania agreed to create 30 new jobs over the next five years. In keeping with the company’s long-standing tradition, hiring Ayer residents would be the priority.
Asking the city for help was not something Catania wanted to do. However, the construction costs were amplified by a retention pond where the stormwater from the property flowed. But moving the property to another community just wasn’t an option, President Joseph Basile said.
“We wanted to stay here because we naturally thought it was the best place to be,” said Basile. “We really wanted to keep the jobs here and the jobs here. We love the community.
When the TIF showed up ahead of Ayer’s spring annual meeting, it received unanimous support. Not only was it passed unanimously, residents applauded its adoption. Basil called it “rewarding”.
As for job creation, Basile is going a little faster than expected.
By early August, the company had approved five new positions and was actively recruiting 12 in total due to normal turnover.
Like other employers, Catania has struggled to recruit employees amid the pandemic. Basile said some potential employees may be waiting for the right opportunity to re-enter the workforce.
To help alleviate their problems, Basil said the company offers current employees a referral bonus of $ 1,000 if a new employee arrives and stays.
Catania also faces a challenge with the arrival of new employees given the factory automation, health and safety protocols and standard operating procedures. A new recruit requires “two or three months” of training, “according to Basile.
“It’s a lot of training, a lot of process. There are a lot of things you have to go through to be a new hire and the world today is very different from what it was 20 years ago, ”said Basile.
This is not the first expansion undertaken by Catania. Basile said that about six years ago the company had grown to add 27 new process tanks, bringing the total to 67. They also closed the railroad spurs to protect the cars from the elements. On a single car, there are about 26,000 gallons of oil, Basil estimated.
Moving on to Nemco Way, one could be forgiven for thinking the company is a warehousing company or a home heating supplier. For the average consumer, Catania Oils might not be a household name.
However, the chances of one of Catania’s products being in your pantry are high.
Catania oils are used as ingredients in regional and national brands of snacks. The company supplies oils to brands such as Frito Lay, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Cape Cod Potato Chips and Ken’s Foods.
The company produces many private label products, including olive oil and vegetable oil for Market Basket, Hannaford’s and Subway.
“You don’t know it, but we are all around you in your closet,” Basil said. “You go into your closet, you take out the sauce, you take out the dressing that you take out, whatever, there’s a very strong possibility that the oils that we process in this factory are all in your kitchen.”
It was a conscious choice to go the private label route, said Basile.
Basile said the company has seen “brand consolidation” in the industry and retailers prefer to have national brands rather than regional ones. They “weren’t going to be able to go and acquire a national brand”, so they took the opportunity to grow their business by focusing on private labels.
As a private label business grew, so did the diversity of offerings. Catania is able to produce almost any product, including blended oils, whether for cooking or consumption.
New products and innovative means of production have benefited the company.
“With all of these advancements in our industry, we just needed more tanks and more equipment, and we were able to continue to reinvest in the business to allow us to grow,” said Basile.
After all these years, Catania Oils has remained in the hands of the Basile family. The company was founded by Joseph Basile in 1900.
Young Basil is attached to the family and perhaps considers the community at large as a family.
At the height of the pandemic, Catania Oils employees prepared care packages for frontline healthcare workers. The packages included handwritten cards expressing gratitude and encouragement, as well as several different bottles of oil.
Catania Oils also supports the Loaves & Fishes pantry based in Devens.
On September 20, the company will host the 31st Annual Basil Family Memorial Golf Tournament at the Shaker Hills Country Club in Harvard. All proceeds from the tournament go towards adult and pediatric cancer research and care at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The tournament is already sold out, said Basile.
The tournament was created in honor of Basil’s uncle, Joseph D. Basile, who died of leukemia in 1988.
Throughout the history of the tournament they have raised over $ 850,000 and for Basil he is confident they will reach or exceed $ 1 million this year.
Participants in this year’s golf tournament will have the chance to win a Patriots hoodie signed by head coach Bill Belichick. The sleeves are still attached.
“Our goal is to have this everlasting impact on employees, our customers and our community,” said Basile. “You are not in business just to make a profit. Of course you have to be in business to make money and so on. But you know with us, it’s about going the extra mile and caring about those types of people that you have these relationships with.