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Terra Chips maker eyes Nassau for spuds

Hain Celestial's Terra Blues Potato Chips

Hain Celestial's Terra Blues Potato Chips Credit: Terrachips.com

Potato farming could enjoy resurgence in Nassau County if the world's largest producer of natural foods has its way.

The Hain Celestial Group Inc. is in discussions with the county about growing potatoes on farmland and other parcels purchased by Nassau to preserve open space, officials said Wednesday.

Talks have just begun but executives and politicians said they were hopeful that one day some ingredients in Hain's popular Terra Chips brand will come from county land. Potatoes were Long Island's cash crop before houses displaced farms after World War II.

"There is so much we want to do in the county," Hain chief executive Irwin D. Simon said at an event in the company's future headquarters in Lake Success. "Being one of the largest growers of organic fruits and vegetables . . . we know there is great farmland in Nassau County."

He and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano discussed potato farming at a ceremony marking Hain's commitment to keep its corporate office on Long Island. Three and a half hours earlier, the county's industrial development agency had given final approval for a 16-year freeze of Hain's property taxes and a $850,000 sales tax exemption on furniture, equipment and fixtures for the new office.

Hain has rented 86,000 square feet at 1111 Marcus Ave., once home to the United Nations. It currently rents 35,000 square feet at 58 South Service Rd. in Melville.

As part of the $10-million project, Hain plans to open a product development center and add 122 people over 10 years to its local workforce of 250. In return, New York State is providing $4.5 million in state tax credits.

Simon said he would like to procure some of the blue potatoes for Terra Chips locally. "We make Terra Chips in New Jersey. It would be great to get potatoes from Nassau County," he said. "We've used potatoes from Suffolk County in the past."

Depending on soil attributes, Hain also may be able to grow Yukon and white chipping potatoes here.

Mangano said, "The land that would be used is some the county acquired under the Environmental Bond Act."

Hain reported profits of $55 million last year on sales of $1.1 billion, making it Long Island's ninth largest public company by sales. It has about 4,000 employees worldwide.

"Other states offered much more money, but we have a great employee base here," Simon said.

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