Great Lakes Cheese looking at building mega-plant in Cattaraugus County, not in the Town of Le Roy
Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz put an athletic competition spin on news that Great Lakes Cheese Co. Inc. will not be building a $500 million, 486,000-square-foot processing facility on land adjacent to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park on Route 19 north of the village.
“You know what, as a coach would say, ‘When somebody goes down, it’s the next man up – that’s how I look at it,” said Farnholz, speaking by telephone today.
Word that the Ohio-based cheese manufacturer is looking elsewhere – reportedly at a 130-acre site in the Cattaraugus County towns of Farmersville and Franklinville – reached Farnholz over the past couple days. However, he said, the Le Roy Town Board has done much to set the stage for another company to come in.
“We’re going to request some of the archaeological work and some of the site planning if Great Lakes is willing to give it to us, since they have already done that,” he said. “And that would be a further incentive for another business to come in because the archaeological and some of those other things are done already.
“We checked a lot of boxes. We’ve got water, gas and electric solved, so I think that makes it more attractive for the next one on deck.”
Although Great Lakes Cheese did not submit a formal application to the Genesee County Economic Development Center to review its site plan or to request tax incentives, company representatives did check out the location and talked to individual landowners about the possibility of selling their property.
REZONING FOR FUTURE EXPANSION
Also, on July 8, the town board unanimously voted to rezone seven parcels totaling 185 acres in the north of the Le Roy Food & Tech Park – between Route 19 (Lake Street Road), West Bergen Road and Randall Road – from R-2 (Residential) to I-2 (Light Industrial) to accommodate future business expansion.
“We did everything we could and we will continue to try and attract business and industry,” Farnholz said. “In the end, there were some DEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) issues with wastewater, and I think there were some incentives that other municipalities or counties may have offered that financially weren’t available or the best idea for us or the best fit.”
The town board’s decision to rezone the parcels was made despite opposition from homeowners in that area, many of whom spoke at a public hearing prior to the vote.
One of the most outspoken against it was Eric Raines Jr., who with his girlfriend, purchased the historic Olmsted Manor and its 14 acres of woodlands on Lake Street Road. Raines’ contention was that the town’s Future Land Map showed that the area was supposed to remain “agricultural.”
Contacted today, he said, "It is what it is, and I'd like to thank anybody that supported us. I guess I'm going to be able to watch the sunset over the soybeans for at least another day."
A check of the Genesee County PROS Property Search site lists the owners of the rezone parcels as Englerth (four parcels, 123.7 acres); Sam Caccamise Estate (one parcel, 53.5 acres); Stella (one parcel, 2.8 acres), and Falcone (one parcel, 5 acres).
GCEDC OWNS TECH PARK
The GCEDC owns the vacant 71.7-acre Le Roy Food & Tech Park located to the south of all but the Falcone parcel. The park is zoned I-2.
Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, said his agency continues to promote the site to manufacturers, both locally and outside of New York State.
“The GCEDC is always looking for companies to locate and expand their businesses here,” he said. “It is our goal to provide the appropriate acreage and utilities that will enable these companies to pair up their operations.”
According to minutes of a June 24 board meeting of the County of Cattaraugus IDA, Great Lakes Cheese Co. Inc., and Schwab Land Holdings, LLC, applied to that agency “to allow and direct the CCIDA to partner and facilitate the proposed project an action by undertaking certain studies and findings to help achieve shovel ready site status.”
Continuing, the minutes state the facility would preserve 229 jobs and would allow for additional hiring of 200 new employees.
Reportedly, the plant will also require 30,000 more cows from area dairy farms as it will be producing four million gallons of milk per day – twice as much as used at the company’s Cuba Cheese plant in Allegany County.
CCIDA CONSIDERS 25-YEAR PILOT
A letter dated July 27 from Corey Wiktor, CCIDA executive director, acknowledged receipt of the company’s application and request for financial assistance (tax incentives).
Wiktor, returning a phone call from The Batavian, said that while nothing has been finalized, the CCIDA is considering a 25-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement proposed by Great Lakes Cheese, as well as sales tax and mortgage tax abatements.
"We have not done that prior, but we have also not been a party to a proposed project of this magnitude," Wiktor said, noting that for every one manufacturing job at the site it could create six more jobs down the supply chain."
He said agency staff is doing its due diligence on the site, including flood plain and traffic studies, soil testing, and environmental and endangered species studies.
"And, like Le Roy, we've gone through some municipal rezoning, if you will. Things are progressing, but we still do not have a confirmed project or investment."