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June 3, 2013 - 11:05pm

GCEDC CEO out of the spotlight during ceremony for big yogurt plant he helped put on the map

Throughout the 90-minute opening ceremony for the new Muller Quaker Dairy Plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Steve Hyde sat in the second row and smiled.

Not one speaker -- and there were five of them -- mentioned Hyde by name. There was no official recognition of his work to bring this day about.

Still, he smiled.

You couldn't help but think of a proud father watching his son or daughter graduate.

Asked how he felt afterward, Hyde, as he usually does when posed such questions, demurred and praised others.

"It’s a great day for everybody in the community," Hyde said. "This was a dream of mine and a lot of other partners. It’s 10 years in the making and this is just phase one."

Hyde has his critics. Genesee County Economic Development Center, the organization he runs, has its skeptics. But the Muller Quaker plant is a big deal, especially for a county of only 57,000 people that hasn't had a big factory opening in more than five decades.

PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group invested $200 million in the facility and that dollar figure doesn't count product development, designs for new trade-secret machinery to create the Greek-style yogurt, new software to run the plant and the planning that goes into bringing a new product to market.

Ken Adams, president of Empire State Development, indicated he was a little bit awed by the idea of a global powerhouse like Pepsi and a German-based company like Theo Muller coming to Upstate New York.

"Having PepsiCo here, having Muller here, is like a global seal of approval for this park and its infrastructure," Adams said.

And he gives a lot of the credit for making it happen to Hyde.

"Steve Hyde as far as I’m concerned, he really put the agri-business park, this particular location, on the map at a statewide level," Adams said. "Steve is always in Albany working very closely with the legislators from the area, senate and assembly, working very close with the governor’s office.

"I’ve told this to him, so I'll say it to you," Adams added, "Steve Hyde is a forceful, well respected advocate for investment and economic development here in Batavia. He really put the site on the map and then he also pulls everybody together at the local and state level to make sure a project like this actually goes smoothly. That’s important for the company, for the investors, that there are no hiccups along the way."

A critical factor with Muller Quaker -- called Project Wave during the planning process -- was the speed at which all of the necessary permits could be secured. A lot of credit goes to Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials, but the GCEDC staff laid the ground work to have a shovel-ready site and push the paperwork through the process.

In his speech today, Theo Muller praised the local authorities who got approval for the plant so quickly.

"It would be unimaginable in Germany," he said with a wink. "In Germany that would have taken at the very least three years. You have to send a whole case of yogurt to them over there to get anything done."

Sen. Charles Schummer called the ag park a great idea of local leaders and said when GCEDC came to him for help, he was happy to jump in and secure federal grants for infrastructure.

"There is no better way to strengthen our dairy industry and create jobs than to build a park like this, which has helped attract this great company," Schumer said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who helped with the state legislative process on the project, noted that in any big project like this, stretching, as it does, across the boundaries of local, state and federal responsibilities, there are a lot of people who deserve credit for bringing it together, but Hyde certainly provided critical leadership.

"This is a big deal," Hawley said. "It's one of the largest plants in the country. We need jobs. I hear about it every day from constituents."

It takes a lot of work, Hawley said, to untangle the regulations that can hold up a business and a lot of people had a hand in bringing it together.

"A lot of the credit goes to Steve, but it's a team effort," Hawley said.

Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans and president of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council, is also a Steve Hyde fan. He believes Hyde will pull off the gargantuan task of developing WNY STAMP, the proposed 1,200-acre, high-tech manufacturing park in Alabama that could employ 9,300 people some day.

It's an audacious project, but Wegman said when there are people passionate about projects, they can make things happen.

"Steve is very excited about this," Wegman said last week during the governor's visit to Genesee Community College. "There are a lot of confidential things that can't be shared, but I feel confident that if somebody I believe in is excited about it, the chances of it happening are pretty good."

The success of the ag park only enhances the chance's of success with STAMP, Adams said.

"We’re very hopeful," Adams said. "It’s a globally competitive industry. The opportunity is at STAMP. It’s a great site. It’s much bigger than this site, the agri-business park, but Steve has done a good job at lining up all of the vital ingredients for that site -- power, water, obviously the land, permitting, all the things you need to really be shovel-ready when the right business comes along. He’s the chief marketer. He’s going to Albany tomorrow. He’s on it and he works very closely my colleagues at ESD on marketing STAMP, so we have our fingers crossed."

Hyde said it's all about building on the natural assets of Batavia and Genesee County and showing that can be done with the ag park will translate into confidence for other projects, such as STAMP.

"It helps build credibility in the eyes of some of the folks in the leadership roles in the state that we know how to do this here at the local level," Hyde said. "This (agriculture) is an industry where the regional assets were in great demand and we could make an impact, and when you look at the regional assets in the nano stuff in our region we’ve got the same situation developing."

Jeff Allen
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I think it is awesome that Stanley Tucci came to the opening. He is sitting behind Steve in the top picture.

scott williams
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Great job To Steve and all the help he had. The public might not always be in agreement but that aside hard work should be commended.

Mark Potwora
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Doesn't Hyde get paid for doing this...200,000 grand a year .......Its his job..

Howard B. Owens
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Doesn't this firefighter get paid for saving lives? Paid firefighters are paid very well by most people's standards. It's their job. Guess we shouldn't do stories about firefighters who save lives.

I happen to believe that the full story should be told and sometimes that means pointing out when people do a good job, whether they're paid for it or not.

Kyle Couchman
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I hate to say it but although I detest the way I feel Steve is using and abusing this county to make himself and his cronies rich. This is a win in his column and he deserves a pat on the back. However it still remains to be seen what will happen when the tax breaks expire, what if this corporate entity then asks for another round of breaks, like COR got or they will pull up stakes and go elsewhere. With a huge corp like pepsico they could pull their equip and move to wisconsin or other dairy rich areas. Then what happens locally?

Its could just end up like the Lowes situation only the finacial damage locally would be deeper and ripple effect more severe. Giving this corp some leverage to negotiate another tax break to their liking..... do you see where this could go and why COR getting a second dip into the tax break pool is maybe a bit more serious than lawmakers and GCEDC would have you believe?

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