Friday June 14, 2013

Giovanni Food Co. owner shines in spotlight

Lou DeMent drawing state, national attention for business savvy
By Jacob Pucci

    What started as a family owned tavern in Oswego nearly 70 years ago has become a major player in the food production industry in the area.

    After already gaining state recognition, the business is moving on to seek national attention.

    Louis DeMent, CEO of Giovanni Food Co., was named the New York state winner of the 2013 small business person of the year award recently by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
    In 2006, the company moved from its Oswego roots to Liverpool and then further expanded into DeWitt, under the leadership of DeMent.

    “So much of it is due to the employees,” DeMent said. “My team makes me look good.”

    The business expanded after the move to the new DeWitt location and the purchase of Ventre Packing Co. The move upped the size from roughly 40 employees to nearly 70.

    DeMent has seen the company increase its sales by an average of 20 percent each year over the last 12 years.

    In addition to the new facility, which is equipped with three fully automated production lines as opposed the lone semi-automated line present at the Liverpool location, DeMent credits much of the company’s success to his father, who passed away unexpectedly in 2007.

    “My father always said, ‘Nothing comes easy. If you work hard, good things will come,’” DeMent said.

    Since he took over, DeMent said he expanded top-level management, which he claimed has brought a more professional environment to the company. With the company rapidly expanding, DeMent created a sales department and hired a plant manager for the DeWitt plant, Timothy Budd.

    Budd was recently honored as the Manufacturers Association of Central New York’s innovator of the year.

    After the acquisition of Ventre Packing Co., a measure DeMent said was both immediate and necessary and has “worked out beautifully,” the company took on the work of Ventre.

    That included contract work from Giovanni Foods itself after the demand for product exceeded the capabilities of its Liverpool location, as well as Ventre’s own clients, including the popular Enrico’s brand of pasta sauce.

    With all of his accomplishments, DeMent will move on to compete on the national stage in Washington, D.C. on June 21 as one of 52 companies recognized in the country as a part of SBA's National Small Business Week celebration.

    “It would be fantastic to bring that award home,” DeMent said. “It would be remarkable for New York state and to bring more attention to the fact that manufacturing is still very much alive in this state.”