Frito-Lay has local presence

Many area residents recognize the name Frito-Lay and its familiar brand of snacks such as Cheetos, Doritos and Tostitos, but some may not be aware that the company has a plant in Williamsport.

In fact, nearly 250 people work at the site at 220 North Reach Road.

The plant serves customers all over the Northeast and is the only Cheetos facility serving that region.

“We are an extremely high-performing plant,” said manufacturing manager Ed Gengaro. “We are very competitive in terms of safety and quality.”

Frito-Lay is a division of Pepsico and does $10 billion in annual worldwide sales.

Nationwide, it employs 45,000 people.

Frito-Lay began in the early 1930s as two separate companies – The Frito Co. and the H.W. Lay & Co.

The two later merged to form Frito-Lay, and in 1965 Frito-Lay merged with Pepsi-Cola Co.

The Williamsport plant is one of the top ten Frito-Lay facilities in the U.S.

“We feel very good about our place in Williamsport,” he said.

The plant runs three shifts.

Inside the facility can be seen the various Frito-Lay products being prepared for shipment.

Workers in hair nets and goggles busy themselves with packing boxes and other aspects of the job.

“We have to manufacture 24/7,” Gengaro said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is maintaining all the equipment that runs the products through the process.

Corn used for producing the tasty snacks is brought to the plant by rail.

The various brands are produced, packed and labeled before being warehoused and then shipped.

Frito-Lay last year celebrated its 40th year in Williamsport.

That longevity, Gengaro said, has helped the company forge close ties with the area.

“We focus on trying to be a partner in the community,” he said.

Among the fundraising and charitable activities Frito-Lay has been involved with over the years has been Relay for Life, Toys for Tots, the Mini-Indy, and the Little League Parade.

Good workers are a key to the company’s success.

“We have a pretty high tenured employee base,” he said. “In the past year we have done some hiring, mostly to replace people,” he said.

Overall, it’s a competitive business, with many other companies out there competing for the snack market.

For now, the local plant has no plans to expand its operations.

“We are kind of land-locked here,” he said. “We can’t necessarily expand from our current property.”

The plant was honored in 2010 with recertification of its status as a VPP Star site a designation honoring sites with injury rates falling below the national average.

“We’ve been recognized by OSHA,” he said. “We have a great safety track record.”