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Genesee County Economic Development Center

November 23, 2021 - 2:29pm

Published reports today indicate that Samsung Electronics Co. has decided to build a $17 billion semiconductor plant in Taylor, Texas, ending speculation that South Korea’s largest company would be locating the facility in New York State and, possibly, at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the town of Alabama.

A story from Bloomberg Wire stated the chip-making plant will be constructed in the Central Texas city, which is about 30 miles from Samsung’s giant manufacturing hub in Austin.

A news conference led by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reportedly is scheduled for 5 this afternoon.

Sources close to the project said the plant would create about 1,800 jobs and chip production is expected to start at the end of 2024.

As late as September, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer – during an appearance at STAMP to promote Plug Power’s decision to build a green hydrogen facility there – said that Samsung officials toured the 1,250-acre site owned by the Genesee County Economic Development Center and that he was communicating “on a regular basis” with the company’s president.

A resolution posted on the Taylor, Texas, website reveals that the city is offering Samsung more than $300 million in tax credits for the first 10 years – and additional incentives for two subsequent 10-year periods, plus a tax waiver of 92.5 percent on all new property built on the site for the first 10 years.

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October 16, 2021 - 12:12pm

Press release from Tonawanda Seneca Nation:

GENESEE COUNTY, New York — The Tonawanda Seneca Nation reached a settlement (with the Genesee County Economic Development Center) of a lawsuit seeking to stop Plug Power, Inc.’s construction of a facility that would anchor a manufacturing megasite, known as the STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) site. In June, the Nation petitioned the New York State Supreme Court to stop the development of the Plug Power project adjacent to the Nation’s land in Genesee County, but a judge dismissed the case on procedural grounds last week. The STAMP site is adjacent to the Nation and within the Nation’s ancestral territory.

“We’re disappointed that the court didn’t have the opportunity to hear our arguments in this case,” said Kenith Jonathan, Sachem Chief for the Wolf Clan of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and keeper of the Western Door. “We never got our day in court to explain how the project would diminish the Big Woods and have a negative impact on our Nation and our way of life.”

In its petition to the court, the Nation warned that the development would diminish the Big Woods, a pristine parcel of land that citizens of the Nation forage and hunt on, as they have for centuries. The Big Woods is a source of various traditional medicines important to the Nation’s culture and health. For centuries, the Tonawanda Seneca people have relied on the medicines, passing down that knowledge from generation to generation. Tonawanda Seneca citizens also play traditional games not far from the proposed Plug Power site. Citizens of the Nation voiced concern that the games would be disturbed by the traffic, noise and light pollution from the project.

“Make no mistake; we are opposed to developing a manufacturing megasite adjacent to pristine woods on undeveloped land,” said Chief Jonathan. “While we are disappointed that the construction will go forward, this settlement includes important protections to reduce the impact on our Nation and to protect our way of life. We are hopeful that the agreement can be the framework for a more collaborative relationship with GCEDC and Plug Power moving forward.” 

The settlement negotiated by the Nation will permanently protect from development over 200 acres of land on the STAMP site that is adjacent to the Nation’s territory. Plug Power, Inc. also is prohibited from using pesticides on the protected lands, which will further protect the environment. The Nation also will have cultural resource monitors onsite during earthmoving activities — to help identify and protect any unanticipated cultural resource discoveries.

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September 4, 2021 - 11:18am

Longtime Batavia area residents surely remember George’s Dairy, the welcoming store run by the farm family on the west side of Route 98, just past the Thruway bridge heading north out of the city.

The dairy, known for its delicious chocolate milk and specialty fruit drinks, was a destination back in the 1960s and ‘70s – a lone business surrounded by acres and acres of farmland.

Fifty years later, streets called Federal Drive, Commerce Drive and Call Parkway – filled with hotels and commercial/industrial enterprises in developments known as “corporate parks” – greet motorists traveling over that same Thruway bridge toward Saile Drive, which also has become a hot spot for new business ventures.

“What we have seen and continue to see in that part of the town is the result of the efforts of several true visionaries, people such as the Call family, George Forsyth, Torchy Babcock and Carl Scott – visionaries who paved the way at great sacrifice to their political land personal careers,” Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said.

Post credited governmental officials for “getting everyone into the room” – farmers, businessmen, politicians, engineers, architects, real estate brokers and industrial development agency staff – to install the infrastructure necessary to make that area a viable alternative for entrepreneurs.

“Infrastructure is the key,” said Post, a forward-thinking administrator in his own right. “Getting public water and sewer, and don't discount the fact that sales tax in Genesee County is (or was) less than in Monroe and Erie.” (Post was referring to sales tax rates at early stages of development).

‘GATEWAY’ TO ECONOMIC GROWTH

This has enabled the Genesee County Economic Development Center to establish the Gateway I Corporate Park (Federal and Commerce Drive) and Gateway II Corporate Park (Call Parkway) off of Route 98, and to help facilitate the buildup of West and East Saile Drive, which is anchored by the Milton CAT (Caterpillar heavy equipment) facility.

Steve Hyde, GCEDC president and chief executive officer, said he realized when he started at the agency in 2002 that there would be a demand for commercial bases between Western New York’s two large cities.

“From my first days at the GCEDC, we knew that there was demand for more capacity for these industries and for larger consolidated operations centers serving Buffalo and Rochester that could support enhanced jobs and investment,” Hyde said. “There were already signs that the market was responding at Gateway I Corporate Park. We had to be ready for more.”

Hyde said that after two decades of working with municipal partners and landowners on projects, “that demand has turned into successful results.”

“Both of Genesee County's business parks are fully activated. The businesses and careers that started this momentum have thrived, and more construction is on the way,” he said.

“And it’s incredible to see our heartland industries like the ag and construction equipment and logistics and transportation growing hand-in-hand with our shovel-ready sites north of the Thruway, and all along Saile Drive.”

A FLURRY OF DEVELOPMENT

Close to two dozen businesses are located at the two corporate parks and along Saile Drive.

Gateway I, which broke ground about 20 years ago, is sold out.

Businesses there include Farm Credit East (pictured below), (formerly) Aluydne (pictured below), Fairfield Hotel, Mondelez, Traco Manufacturing, Mega Properties (Koolatron, Exide Technologies, Auto Plus Auto Parts), Jasper Engines & Transmissions, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Fairbridge Inn. The 147,000-square foot Aluyde building is currently listed by Pyramid Brokerage.

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Gateway II (Call Parkway) features Ashley Furniture, Mega Properties and Gateway GS LLC, the latter being a five-building project of Gallina Development Corp. of Rochester (pictured below). The Mercy Flight EMS Genesee base just off Route 98 is adjacent to the park.

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Moving to Saile Drive, you’ll find Alta Equipment Company/Vantage Equipment (pictured below), SCP Distributors, Monroe Tractor, Freightliner & Western Star of Batavia, Milton CAT (pictured below) and L&M Specialty Fabrication, which is close to Bank Street Road (pictured below).

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LandPro Equipment, Valiant Real Estate USA (New York Bus Sales) reportedly will be building on Saile Drive, while Rochester Regional Health is preparing to construct a four-story office building on Route 98, across from Federal Drive and near Call Parkway.

“What we’re seeing now is that the whole area is erupting with activity,” said Chris Suozzi, GCEDC’s vice president of business and workforce development. “The Gallina project is indicative of what is happening.”

GALLINA’S BIG PROJECT IS UNDERWAY

Suozzi said Gallina’s plan is to erect five 27,000-square foot buildings. One is complete and the second one is under construction.

“Everything has grown organically as our industrial parks were kind of the anchor tenants, if you will, in the beginning,” he said. “Organically, because of it being zoned Industrial out there, we’re seeing this tremendous impact over a course of time.”

GCEDC Marketing Director Jim Krencik mentioned the need for modern, office warehousing, calling it “flex space.”

“That’s what Gallina is doing,” he said. “They have 20 acres in total, and will sell four acres every time they complete one of the buildings. Then they will take ownership of the buildings from the GCEDC, which owns the property."

Krencik said Gallina’s investment is around $2 million for each building.

“When you look out across the country, including the Buffalo and Rochester markets, there isn’t a large amount of really good, modern usable facilities,” he added.

Suozzi said the reason for that is that the “industrial vacancy rate is really low.”

“A lot of the existing inventory of buildings – you get your commercial and industrial real estate folks .... there’s not inventory available. The market is demanding that you have flex space or spec space so that the capacity is there when somebody really wants a product,” he offered.

He said the first Gallina building was built on speculation, recognizing that it would fill over time.

“The first (Gallina) building went up without a tenant,” he said. “Now, they’ve subdivided into thirds and there are three tenants in there.”

Buildings two through five are being constructed with tenants already lined up, he advised.

PRIVATE OWNERS MAKING DEALS

Tony Mancuso, longtime real estate broker for Mancuso Commercial Realty, said he has represented numerous landowners at Gateway I, Gateway II and Saile Drive as well as selling the parcel where the Federal Detention Facility is located and most of the parcels on Veterans Memorial Drive to the southwest.

“There’s not a lot of land left in those areas, actually,” he said, although he did say he is representing owners of about 10 vacant acres on Saile Drive.

Mancuso said developers will be looking to areas beyond the corporate parks, likely on land further west of Route 98.

Krencik said Saile Drive has intensified over the past decade, becoming a huge corridor for logistics as well as heavy equipment manufacturing, servicing and production that feeds into agriculture and transportation.

“We have our own park, but you really see the spillover and multiplier effect happening all the way down that street from Route 98 to Bank Street Road,” he said. “We’re taking about projects that have invested over $50 million in facilities they built or are planning to build on 500,000 square feet between those two areas and creating several hundred jobs.”

REAL ESTATE BROKER ‘NOT SURPRISED’

He called Saile Drive “almost a secret industrial park” with companies serving the need for big equipment, such as Milton CAT – “like-minded businesses all having the same vision and locating within a short distance of each other.”

Suozzi said GCEDC was the catalyst of this activity, but now “you’re seeing other people that own land along Saile Drive, that once the infrastructure was put in … you’re seeing local commercial/industrial realtors like Tony Mancuso, Rick Mancuso and Russ Romano who are selling property for individual owners along Saile Drive.”

Rick Mancuso, managing partner of Mancuso Real Estate, said he has represented property owners on Saile Drive, closing on several sales, including L&M Specialty Fabrication.

A business owner for many years, he said he could see this influx of development coming.

“I think that area is just beginning to take off right now. The close proximity of the (Genesee County) Airport and the Thruway make that property a real viable area for development,” he said.

“When land became scarce, the farmland started being sold and bought up at rates that even surprised the real estate brokers. It doesn’t surprise me, though, especially with our location between Buffalo and Rochester.”

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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August 30, 2021 - 3:54pm

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Congressman Chris Jacobs no doubt spoke for millions of Americans when he expressed his appreciation for those men and women who possess the ability to work with their hands.

Jacobs was the keynote speaker this afternoon as economic development, business and educational leaders from the four-county area gathered together at the Genesee County Fairgrounds to promote the third annual GLOW With Your Hands career exploration event.

The career day is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the fairgrounds on East Main Street Road.

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Related story: Dansville construction firm excited to support 4-H

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About 700 students in grades 8-12 from 30 school districts and home school groups along with 40 vendors from different trades are expected to participate.

“Prior to being in elected office, I have a real estate development company – mostly in Erie County. But, I have no skills, myself, as far as trades, and my wife will attest to that,” Jacobs revealed, drawing a laugh from the 30 or so people in attendance.

“But, I’ve always enjoyed so much … working with the trades and I still do a little bit – projects – because I was always amazed by the skill sets they brought. Their ability to – I think someone said, problem-solve. That’s what they do every single day because every single project has different variations and challenges and factors, and they have to adopt.”

Jacobs said that the “level of skill and adaptability that I’ve seen in the trades is something that I’ve always had such admiration for, and that’s one reason I enjoyed so much being a real estate developer.”

With that in the backdrop, Jacobs said he will continue to work with Assemblyman Steven Hawley (who spoke after him) and state leaders to secure the funding necessary to keep GLOW With Your Hands going – and hopes that he will be able to attend the event on Sept. 28.

He said he was impressed with the inaugural event in 2019, noting that he took part in the nail hammering competition and tried his hand at welding.

“I have always thought … it’s giving children – I think it’s very important for our kids to see a future that lies ahead and opportunities that lie ahead …,” he said. “I also think that, and I know we have educators here, that the ability to understand application (and kids realizing that) ‘OK, that makes sense why I’m in class learning math because I need to measure things and it actually has a real world application.’”

The NY-27 representative commended the many partners in the GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming) region that “are doing so many things for this event, but also in charting the new path for the future of our region.”

“It cannot happen without a skilled workforce. So, this is critically important for the future of these children to be able to achieve what their dreams, aspirations and talents lie, but also that we cannot achieve our broader objective without them.”

Jacobs emphasized the importance of having local leaders determine the outcomes for their communities.

“Bring it down small, bring it down local to empower those on the ground to be able to do what they think is right,” he said. “That’s what we need in our federal policy, too, and clearly what you’re doing with federal resources – and I want to make sure we get more federal resources to you to continue to build upon this … that we go every year to make sure that we have more and more kids going into the trades.”

Chris Suozzi, vice president of workforce development, Genesee County Economic Development Center, and Jay Lazarony, executive director of the GLOW Workforce Development Board, are co-chairs of this year’s GLOW With Your Hands career fair.

Suozzi thanked Genesee Construction of Dansville as double platinum sponsor and LandPro as platinum sponsor, before commending the event’s executive committee and volunteers from the educational and business communities.

“Workforce development is a team effort,” he said. “We know that often the most important aspect of the region’s competitiveness is the quality of the workforce. And with an educated and skilled workforce that businesses can tap into to sustain their operations, the GLOW region will meet the needs of companies and communities.”

Suozzi said the area’s youth are talented, and need to learn about career exploration prior to graduating because it would be “too costly and too late” after that.

He noted that participants at the career day will experience first-hand activities associated with careers in agriculture, skilled trades like welding, bricklaying, electrical wiring, heavy equipment operation and “advance manufacturing that tie into our number one program that we just announced at the Genesee Valley Partnership (BOCES) in electromechanical.”

“(It’s) the number one program in New York State, and we’re excited about that,” he said.

Others involved in making the career fair happen, who spoke during the 30-minute presentation today, are as follows:

Karyn Winters, Genesee County Business/Education Alliance director:

“GLOW With Your Hands is providing students with great pathways to a strong network of programs to guide their growth. Businesses have been tremendously supportive of this mission and also provide great jobs.

“With the BEA, I get first-hand the excitement that kids have working with their hands. We just finished out summer career exploration camps this year, and with GLOW With Your Hands even more students will have the opportunity to see various construction trades that will be at this event.

“Trades and many companies offer apprenticeship programs that can result in workers acquiring highly sought-after skills.  Live demonstrations and start the recruitment process for their next generation of workers.”

Molly Huangs, LandPro Equipment (John Deere distributor) marketing manager:

“It has been an amazing experience to see organizations from four counties work together in collaboration to promote career trades in our area. It is also truly been incredible to see so many companies offer support as well as investing financially.

“Being able to promote to our youth the incredible opportunities and careers available right here in our four-county region is critical to many businesses, including our own.

She said LandPro’s technicians’ career paths they have chosen allow them to “feel fulfillment at the end of every day.”

“That is the message that we as the GLOW With Your Hands career fair committee is working to get to our youth and their families. A career in trades offers our youth to work hard, learn, continue education and provide a lasting and lucrative career that can combine passion with success.”

Angela Grouse, Livingston County Chamber and Livingston Education Alliance director:

“Students with a wide array of interests and abilities will have the opportunity to explore today’s world of work. Hands-on interaction with over 40 vendors from agriculture, advanced manufacturing, skilled trades and food production industries will support students in discovering amazing career opportunities, featuring good pay, competitive benefits and upward mobility that exist right here in our own backyards.”

She said she hears from businesses daily on the challenges of finding qualified staff, as well as the talent pipeline and skills gaps, and the importance of workforce development.

“They are asking how they can connect and share opportunities, and develop the next generation of employees. The answer is right here at GLOW With Your Hands.”

Jay Lazarony, GLOW Workforce Development Board executive director:

He thanked the sponsors and the “army of volunteers that will ascend upon the fairgrounds in just four short weeks.”

“It is no secret that there is a strong demand among employers to replace retiring workers and in some instances, the need is immediate – especially businesses that require specific skills … It’s important to note that a significant portion of these jobs do not require a four-year college degree.

“Training provided by these companies in our region’s workforce and educational organizations can result in someone starting a great career soon after graduation. How many of you would have liked that advantage when you were just graduating from school?”

Assemblyman Steven Hawley:

Hawley mentioned that in 2019, Gov. Kathy Hochul, then New York’s lieutenant governor, participated in the GLOW With Your Hands event.

“I think we have a good partner in her, as well, to support these kinds of efforts,” he said.

Then, he brought up the abundance of employment opportunities around the state (as he did in a story on The Batavian on Sunday).

“We need folks to want to work again. We need them to have their hands on instead of their hands out. We want folks to be contributing members of this society that makes America what it was and hopefully will be again.”

Photo: Key contributors to the 2021 GLOW With Your Hands career exploration event are, from left, Jay Lazarony, Angela Grouse, Alexis Merle, Congressman Chris Jacobs, MaryEllyn Merle, Chris Suozzi, Assemblyman Steven Hawley, Karyn Winters, Molly Huangs. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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August 27, 2021 - 7:57am

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Press release

Students in the inaugural Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Boot Camp graduated Thursday, with four of them preparing to enter full apprenticeship programs and a fifth heading to a technician training program.

Participants split their days at the boot camp's six-week electro-mechanical technician training program between on-the-job training at local employers and hands-on training on Amatrol equipment in the Genesee Valley BOCES expanding electro-mechanical lab.

The boot camp is supported by the Genesee Valley BOCES, Rochester Technology Manufacturers Association, Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program, SUNY Genesee Community College, American Apprenticeship Initiative of Western New York, GLOW Workforce Development Board, Genesee County Economic Development Center and other partners.

Top photo: Front from left, Tom Pelino, Cole Sullivan, Jack Duyssen, and Eli Hopkins; back, Maggie Poray, GV BOCES Batavia Campus executive principal; Chris Suozzi, GCEDC; John McGowan, GCC; Rich Monroe, ElectroMechanical Trades Instructor at the GV BOCES Batavia Campus ElectroMechanical Trades instructor; Jon Sanfratello, GV BOCES director of Instructional Programs; Bob Coyne, RTMA; Rich Turner, FLYAP.  Matthew Bills also graduated from the Boot Camp. Photo by Alecia Kaus.

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July 9, 2021 - 9:24am

After discussing the possibility of selling 2.8 acres of their property on Lake Street Road (Route 19) to Great Lakes Cheese, Chris and Gina Stella said they have decided to retain control of that parcel.

Speaking after Thursday night’s public hearing on rezoning 185 acres next to the Le Roy Food & Tech Park, Chris Stella said he was approached by a representative of the Genesee County Economic Development Center about selling some of his land.

“Joe Macaluso stopped over and said that Great Lakes Cheese might have some interest in the 2.8 acres, so I talked to my wife, Gina, about it,” Stella said. “He (Macaluso) said that they would offer the same thing that they we’re offering everybody else, but I’ll be honest with you, nobody wants it in their backyard – and I didn’t either.”

Stella said he didn’t blame other nearby property owners for entering into potential land deals with the Ohio-based manufacturer, which has been identified as inquiring into the Town of Le Roy site as a location for a new $500 million processing plant.

“But, do I want it? I never wanted it. We talked about it a little bit,” Stella added. “Their deal was … that they wanted to put up a berm to protect us from it, so we really didn’t have to see anything. But, my attorney actually got us a map of what they wanted to do, and I think the deal closer for us was that they wanted to put in a deceleration lane starting right in my front yard.”

(Town Supervisor James Farnholz said the deceleration lane topic is “conjecture” at this point, and that the state Department of Transportation would have the final say on traffic issues.)

Stella said different people have told him that anywhere from 85 to 120 trucks per day would come in and out of the plant, and that they run at all hours.

“All day and all night I’m going to be hearing Jake brakes,” he said. “That was a deal closer for us. At least if we have that 2.8 acres of land, we can kind of do what we want to do with it. They can do whatever they want. We decided to hold on to it.”

When asked how much was offered, he said, “They didn’t offer us anything. I heard that it was around $20,000 an acre, but I’m not sure about that. I heard that number floating around somewhere.”

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July 2, 2021 - 11:52am

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors approved an initial application for incentives and final incentives for projects proposing to invest $18.5 million at its July 1 board meeting.

Gateway GS LLC (Gallina Development) plans to build the third phase of its flex campus at the GCEDC’s Gateway II Corporate Park in the Town of Batavia. The $2.36 million investment will create a 27,000-square-foot facility that would be completed in 2022 for a single logistics-distribution tenant. The future tenant is estimated to create 21 new jobs at an average annual salary of $42,000. 

“This investment and the interest generated for the high-quality facilities Gallina Development is constructing at the Gateway II Corporate Park continue the success of Genesee County’s shovel-ready business park development strategy,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC.

The GCEDC Board of Directors accepted an initial application for the project. Gallina Development is seeking approximately $386,891 in sales, mortgage, and property tax incentives. The project is estimated to generate $28 in economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

The GCEDC Board of Directors also approved a final resolution for Just Chez Realty LLC. After making improvements to the first floor of 206 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia, Chez Realty LLC is proposing to invest $450,000 to construct two market-rate apartments on the second floor.

The redevelopment of the 13,324-square-foot building is part of the City of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Just Chez Realty will receive approximately $21,000 in sales tax exemptions.

The GCEDC Board of Directors also accepted an application for two community solar projects on Ellicott Street Road in the Town of Batavia. Trousdale Solar LLC and Trousdale Solar II LLC are proposing projects that would generate 5 MW and 4 MW of electricity.

The PILOTs (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) would result in payments of approximately $930,000 to the Batavia City School District and Genesee County over 15 years. The proposed project agreement is estimated to provide $2.5 million in property and sales tax incentives between the two projects.

With the acceptance of the applications from Gateway GS and Trousdale Solar LLC and Trousdale Solar II LLC, public hearings on the proposed projects will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

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June 26, 2021 - 9:07am

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A high-ranking official of the local industrial development agency that owns the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park says Plug Power’s investment in the Town of Alabama site will more than offset the loss in revenue caused by removing about 1,100 acres of mostly farmland from the tax rolls.

That official, Mark Masse, is senior vice president of operations for the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“I know that people get upset with farmland coming out of production but when you have projects like Plug Power that can give you a 10 to 25 times rate of return, that is a significant help – not only to the agricultural community but also your residents,” Masse said.

“We do not give money away. We do not give out bags of cash. That is what everybody seems to have a misconception about. We give an abatement, so they don’t pay the tax.”

Masse and Jim Krencik, the agency’s director of marketing and communications, sat down with The Batavian earlier this week at their Upstate Med & Tech Park office on R. Stephen Hawley Drive to talk about STAMP and the GCEDC’s other ventures.

According to Masse, the agency has acquired 25 parcels equating to 1,144 acres of STAMP’s total of 1,250 acres. He said the assessed value of those properties is about $3 million.

He said that based on 2020 tax rates, that comes to about $104,00 a year for all three taxing jurisdictions – the Town of Alabama, Oakfield-Alabama Central School and Genesee County.

“So, if you were to say that we owned all of those properties for the 10 years – which we didn’t, because we acquired them over time – so you couldn’t apply 10 years to all of them,” he said. “But if you did, that would just be about a million dollars in tax revenue lost over 10 years.”

‘A SIGNIFICANTLY BIGGER PAYBACK’

Masse said that pales in comparison to what Plug Power, the Latham-based producer of green hydrogen fuel cells, will be paying to those three entities as a result of agreeing to build a $232.7 million manufacturing plant and $53 million, 345/115 kilovolt electric power substation at STAMP.

“The Plug Power project will generate a significantly bigger payback than all of those combined,” he said. “So, that’s the big windfall, so to speak, for these municipalities. These are 20-year agreements we’re entering into for Plug Power and those payments are about $1.4 million a year to the taxing jurisdictions, compared to previously collecting only $104,000.”

The contract with Plug Power includes a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), community benefit agreement and community education agreement. Masse said those are classified together as a property tax and it is "additional revenue for the taxing jurisdictions being driven by the project.”

Directors of the GCEDC have approved $118.8 million in property tax ($117.7 million) and sales tax ($1.1 million) abatements for Plug Power.

Krencik said the incentives are based on Plug Power’s performance outlook, including a pledge to create 68 full-time jobs, with salaries and benefits equaling about $70,000 per job.

“When considering the company’s capital investment, job creation, initial investment and projected revenues, the estimate economic impact is $4.40 for every $1 of requested public investment,” he said. “Comparing that against all of our corporate taxpayers in Genesee County, aside from utilities (National Grid, National Fuel), when you look at a single-source business, such as a theme park or a manufacturer, this would make this project the largest single company taxpayer of all those in Genesee County.”

“Unlike when the land – mostly farmland -- was vacant and you had $104,000 in annual taxes, this $1.4 million that Plug Power is going to pay is on 30 acres,” Masse added. “So, that’s a significant rate of return that you see on these types of projects.”

KRENCIK: FOLLOWING THE MODEL

Plug Power is the first tenant at STAMP, which has sat dormant for many years. In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to Batavia to announce that 1366 Technologies, a solar wafer manufacturer based in Massachusetts, would be building a facility at STAMP but that deal eventually fell through.

Krencik said the GCEDC was following a model used by other municipalities – acquiring land and working to install necessary infrastructure to attract interest from mega-companies such as Plug Power.

He said he understands how inactivity at these large sites could lead to public dissatisfaction, while the lack of progress isn’t as evident at smaller manufacturing parks, such as the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road.

“That’s kind of been the model across all the towns – you typically see a shorter timeline on some of these things because they’re smaller projects, smaller sites, smaller infrastructure,” he explained. “In the case of an ag park, I don’t think you’d feel the same type of pressure where you may be thinking, ‘Is there a loss there?’

“There are acres in the ag parks that currently are not on the tax rolls, but, of course, you already see the benefit in Batavia where you have two very large operations that are significant contributors to the town, city schools and the county (HP Hood and Upstate Milk Cooperative).”

Masse agreed, adding that the GCEDC is running out of acreage, “but that’s a good problem to have.”

MASSE: FARMERS BEAR THE BURDEN

Getting back to STAMP, Masse said the GCEDC continues to pay the fire district fees on those properties as they are not tax exempt.

“So, the emergency fire support services are still being paid for all the properties that we own, with the tax based on the assessed values and fire district tax rate,” he said.

Masse also mentioned that many parcels zoned Agricultural receive property tax exemptions.

“Obviously, agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Genesee County and if you look at who bears the largest tax burden in the county it is farmers, because they own the majority of the land,” he said. “That’s why they try to give them some help with the ag exemption. They’ll scale them in over a time period.”

He brought up a municipal consumption study that was done in Amherst around a decade ago that showed that commercial enterprises consume about 80 cents in municipal services while residential consumes around $1.20 in municipal services.

“Everybody complains about these companies but, in the long run, they’re going to help subsidize the municipal services that the residents use more of,” he said. “That’s always our hope that we’re not only creating jobs but also creating additional tax base to alleviate the tax burden. Creating those jobs and having those people spend their money here … what they call the indirect and induced effect of that money being spent throughout your community.”

COMPANIES MUST MEET THEIR GOALS

Masse said companies’ economic impact projections are keys to determining if they qualify for tax incentives and the amount of those incentives.

“Firms are required in their applications to give us the number of full-time equivalent (jobs) that they believe will be created by their projects,” he said. “Back in October of 2015 or 2016, the law changed. Now, that job creation goal is put into our PILOT agreements and other agreements. If they do not achieve that, our board could consider cancelling their PILOT and making them claw back and basically, pay back the incentives that they took.”

He said the GCEDC tracks companies as long as they are receiving benefits and that the board of directors would likely would call in a company to find out why it didn’t reach its goals.

“So, for the 10 years of a PILOT, they are required to report to us their annual job numbers every year. We record them and input them into the New York State reporting system – PARIS (Public Authorities Reporting Information System),” he said. “It’s a public document that shows how many jobs were pledged and how many were created. Once the PILOT expires, the company is no longer required to report those jobs to us.”

Krencik credited Masse for staying in touch with the cities, towns and villages that usually initiate construction projects.

“Mark meets with the town, the school and the county folks more than I meet with members of my immediately family,” Krencik said. “He has kept that dialogue going. At the town board level, for example, that is a strong mode of communication.”  

STAMP DIVIDED INTO ‘DISTRICTS’

A look at the layout of STAMP reveals that it is divided into three “technology districts”:

  • Technology District 1 -- a 600-acre parcel in the northern portion dedicated to high-tech manufacturing, including semiconductor, renewable energy and other advanced industries;
  • Technology District 2 -- office, and research and development space;
  • Technology District 3- -- area geared toward retail support services.

Masse said the concept was to create blocks of three semiconductor chip “fabs” that would open six million square feet for production, accommodating 930 employees.

“We went through the required State Environmental Quality Review, with the full build-out (as such) that if it’s within those thresholds, we really don’t have to do more work,” he said. “When we proposed to rezone the property, that is an action under SEQR and any proposed changes have to comply with SEQR.”

He said that’s what the GCEDC did in 2010 and “that took the better part of two years to get through that process.”

POWER, GAS LINES ARE RIGHT THERE

Masse also said that the presence of the nearby dual 345kV power lines and a National Fuel Empire Pipeline, a 24-inch natural gas transmission line, was a major reason the Town of Alabama location was selected.

“The 345 kV power lines take power from the Niagara Falls power station and run it down to New York City. We did a system impact study that revealed we can pull down 450 megawatts off of those lines,” he said. “With that, we would construct a very large, about a 10-acre substation (on the site), that would be a 345 to 115 kV – it would step the voltage down.”

As previously stated, Plug Power is funding this substation at a cost of about $53 million. Both the Plug Power plant and the substation are expected to be operational by December 2022.

Plug Power, along with the 30 acres it purchased for the green hydrogen facility, has a right of first refusal for an adjoining 30 acres for the possibility of future expansion.

The GCEDC has no applications for other major manufacturers at this time, Masse said. A couple months ago, it was rumored that Samsung was interested in placing a semiconductor manufacturing plant at STAMP.

INCREASED INTEREST IN STAMP?

When asked if Plug Power’s pending move to STAMP has generated more interest in the site, Masse said he’s hopeful that other businesses will take note. He did, however, mention that the COVID-19 pandemic “has driven a lot of companies to take a hard look at where they’re sourcing their products from and where are they selling their products to.”

“COVID broke a lot of supply chain issues throughout the world,” he said. “I think we’ve seen that with shortages and price increases of a lot of things. A lot of companies are doing a reassessment, saying we don’t ever want to go through that again.”

As a result, Masse said that companies are looking to locate new facilities coming out of COVID-19.

“So, one of the nice things about the Plug Project is that timelines are crucial to these companies – time is money to them,” he offered. “That substation is a major piece of infrastructure. Having that in place will go a long way toward alleviating companies’ concerns about that being available. We have the force main of the sewer project under construction. The only real long lead time item left will be the water from Niagara County, and we are just completing our design and engineering on that as well.”

Masse said he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

“A lot of people say, well, it’s been 10 years and all you have done is build a road. They don’t see the amount of soft work, so to speak, that is in my office in about 2,000 pages worth of documents of archaeological, environmental, phase one, phase two – all the design and engineering you have to do and all the regulatory agencies you have deal with. That takes time, and that’s what we have been working on very diligently,” he said.

The development of STAMP has been beneficial to Town of Alabama residents already, he said, in that they gained access to municipal water.

“If we had not done this, they could not afford to get municipal water,” he said. “They had failing wells. A lot of those people were spending $1,500, $2,000 a year on replacing equipment because the water was so bad. And because we were able to fund a significant portion of the water, the town was able to add on and they’re going to end up covering about 95 percent of town residents with public water.”

CORPORATE PARKS IN FULL SWING

The GCEDC has invested tens of millions of dollars in the STAMP project, likely more than anticipated, but Masse said he is confident that the agency’s track record of success in Genesee County will produce a similar outcome in the Town of Alabama.

“If you look at our corporate parks, they’re almost all full at this time,” he said. “It was 2007 when the Ag Park was started. You can see the success that we have had there.”

The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is one of seven corporate parks owned by the GCEDC. Currently, HP Hood, Upstate Niagara and O-At-Ka Milk Products are running at high capacity and are expanding, Masse said.

The other corporate parks are as follows:

  • Le Roy Food & Tech Park in the Town of Le Roy: BioWorks has just signed to take 60 of the park’s 75 acres, and the Le Roy Town Board has set a public hearing for July 8 to consider rezoning neighboring parcels for expansion.

Word has it that Great Lakes Cheese, an Ohio-based manufacturer, has approached individual landowners with purchase offers. Masse said Great Lakes Cheese has yet to apply to the GCEDC for incentives.

“We do not have any applications from any companies for that location,” he said. “A lot of companies will go out and do due diligence on sites. We do not own the property. Whoever is talking with private landowners is between them.”

  • Apple Tree Acres, Bergen: Sixty-two percent of the acreage there is sold, with Liberty Pumps as the key tenant. Liberty Pumps is undergoing an expansion project as well.
  • Gateway I and Gateway II Corporate Park, on both sides of Route 98 near the Thruway exit: “All of those acres are spoken for,” Masse said.
  • Med Tech Center on R. Stephen Hawley Drive: The GCEDC has renovated 800 square feet of space in that building that is available for lease.
  • Buffalo East Tech Park in Pembroke: Artisan cheese maker Yancey’s Fancy has a new plant there and a couple smaller businesses are being proposed for that site.

Masse said he believes that the more the public knows about economic development projects, the perception that the GCEDC is just an administrator of corporate welfare will subside.

“We’ve tried to do public outreach sessions, but they were poorly attended,” he said. “However, all of our agency business is open to public viewing. From a transparency standpoint, we are as transparent an organization as you’re going to find. Everything is on our website. Our board meetings are recorded and they’re Zoomed. Everything we have is out there under public authorities law.”

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SENECA NATION FILES SUIT

In a separate development, Masse said it is agency policy to not comment on any pending litigation.

Earlier this month, the Tonawanda Seneca Nation filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Genesee County, disputing the GCEDC’s determination that the Plug Power project would have no negative effect on the nation’s “Big Woods” land that is situated on the western end of STAMP.

According to the lawsuit’s preliminary statement, the Seneca Nation considers that area “as a property of religious and cultural significance” and that the Plug Power siting would infringe upon those grounds. The plaintiff also contends that the GCEDC did not provide notification prior to the completion of the environmental review process.

stamp_1.jpg

Photo at top: Mark Masse, right, and Jim Krencik at the Genesee County Economic Development Center on R. Stephen Hawley Drive; Photo at bottom: A look at the WNY STAMP site, with the Plug Power project area "X'd out" just south of the Technology District 1 area highlighted in purple. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
June 16, 2021 - 10:32am

luna.jpgA representative of the company looking to build the largest solar project ever in New York State says that building relationships with Town of Elba and Oakfield officials and residents are the keys to finding a path to a finished product that benefits everyone.

Speaking by telephone from his Chicago office last week, Harrison Luna (photo at right), development manager for Hecate (pronounced Heck-A-Tee) Energy, said things are progressing smoothly more than a year after the solar company announced its intention to place a 500-megawatt solar farm on what is now 2,452 acres of farmland in the north portion of the adjoining towns.

On June 3, Hecate Energy filed an application with the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to construct the solar system, which Luna said represents a $500 million-plus investment that will create more than 500 construction jobs – and about 12 permanent full-time jobs -- and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity per year.

Luna said he has been impressed with the feedback from governmental leaders in both towns, who have interacted with him through three open houses and numerous other meetings – virtually and in person. He said that he places a high priority on understanding the views and concerns of the local citizens.

“Just from my perspective, the only way these projects really work is when they come with a respect of the communities they deal with – by building relationships in the community,” he said. “You can’t do that without having a conversation, early and often. That’s how we’ve been doing it the whole time.”

COMMUNICATION LINES ARE OPEN

Luna said he has been in constant contact with town officials, landowners and neighbors, noting that there have been three virtual open houses with hundreds of people participating.

He also holds Zoom calls outside of his office hours for people to speak to him, and has set up a dedicated phone number and email address for people to call with questions or concerns. He said he returns those calls and emails as soon as possible.

A press release from Hecate Energy included comments from the Oakfield and Elba town supervisors, with both Matt Martin and Donna Hynes, respectively, giving the company high marks for keeping them informed “every step of the way” and offering a project that will result in significant financial benefits to both municipalities.

When contacted by The Batavian, Martin said that in his town, things are progressing without controversy.

“I had one resident ask about if the town wanted it or didn’t want it and I said, basically, that we have no choice,” he said. “The state dictates what they do with the solar panels; the state is running the show, not us.”

Martin acknowledged that the economic benefits will be significant – likely in the millions for both towns, the Oakfield and Elba school districts and other taxing entities – but said those, too, “are beyond our control.”

“We can publish what those benefits are but I don’t think they’ve got those numbers outlined yet,” he said. “As things progress, we’ll have some more information. Nothing like this moves really fast.”

A call to Hynes has not been returned.

NEW STATE AGENCY CONTROLS THE CLOCK

As far as the timetable is concerned, Luna said that ORES -- the state agency that has replaced the Article 10 permitting process for large-scale renewable projects -- has 60 days to determine whether Hecate Energy’s application is complete. The Cider Solar Farm is the first application submitted under ORES.

“They are set up sort of as a one-stop shop and a point of contact for everybody to work through the permitting items together,” Luna said. “I think the difference there is that in Article 10, interaction with agencies was hectic – you would talk to individual agencies – while here it’s more of a clearinghouse for all of those interactions with the state.”

Once ORES deems the application is complete, there’s a one-year clock it has to work through the various items in order to issue or deny a permit, Luna said. It could stretch beyond that (or move faster) depending upon the application checking all of the boxes.

Luna said once the permit is received, the company would be ready to start construction, hopefully by next summer. Construction is expected to take 18 months.

He said he projects that about 500 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during construction and around a dozen permanent jobs afterward.

“Once it is built, it is relatively low maintenance,” he said, adding that workers will be paid prevailing wage and “that you would expect a concentrated labor force of local residents.”

THIRTY-ONE LANDOWNING ENTITIES

What began as a 4,000-acre proposition has decreased to 2,452 acres, and that’s all by design, Luna said.

Currently, 31 landowning entities (controlling 67 parcels) have options to lease their land to Hecate Energy, with a few of them being different entities controlled by the same family.

The major landowners are Call Farms Inc., with more than 1,000 acres, along with Norton Farms (approximately 600 acres), Offhaus Farms Inc. (approximately 500 acres), and Eugene Bezon (approximately 300 acres).

Others with around 100 acres are Big O Realty LLC; CY Properties; Gene H. Sharp; David Shuknecht; and Lynn Shuknecht.

CLICK HERE for a complete list of landowners of record. Note that the acreage totals may have changed due to the “honing” process.

“The way that works is originally we went and sought options and lease agreements for 4,000 acres of land,” Luna said. “The reason we start that big is to give us enough room to move with the desires of the community and hone that project to the best possible version it could be. Over time, as we’ve listened to the community on certain things – how far it sets back from the road and various other concerns – we start pulling back and honing it to something much smaller.”

He called it a “useful exercise” -- one that considers protected wetlands and endangered species.

In the case of the Cider Solar Farm, less than 2/10ths of an acre of state-regulated wetlands has been permanently impacted, he said.

NAAS: PROPERTY OWNERS HAVE A CHOICE

genesee_bruce_nass_1.jpgBruce Naas (photo at right), president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, has signed an option to lease 60 acres of land on Naas Farms LLC on Lockport Road in Oakfield for the solar project.

“My opinion has always been, if you own the property, it’s not like I am going to tell somebody else what do to with it,” Naas said. “If it is something that benefits you and your family in the long-term plan, then it’s something … it’s a decision that you have to make.”

Naas said the land that he is leasing is a small portion of the family farm, which grows vegetables, soybeans, corn and wheat.

“We here at our farm, elected to put the poorer ground into solar. It would not generate the income that we have been offered by the solar company – growing row crops. So, for us, it’s strictly a business decision.”

He said he hopes that solar works out in the long run.

“My biggest fear with solar is that it is something I would assume as time goes on would become more efficient … I hope as we move forward, that these things don’t become obsolete before their lifespan,” he said. “I guess from the sounds of it, it is an objective that the governor and political leaders want us to meet, and either you say ‘Yes’ or the train passes you by.”

Naas mentioned the economic advantages for the community, but added that his “biggest concern was that I have to look it at for the rest of my career.”

The farm bureau has no official position on solar, Naas said, reiterating his stance that it is the property owners’ choice “unless it directly affects someone else.”

A call to Call Farms for comment from one of the owners was not returned.

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN THE PIPELINE

Just as the public has seen with the Excelsior Energy Project in the Town of Byron, where the taxing jurisdictions stand to gain millions over the 20-year term of the agreement, the towns of Elba and Oakfield, their school districts, special fire districts, Genesee County and the Haxton Memorial Library will reap financial rewards.

The landowners receive direct compensation through their lease agreements (which generally are believed to pay between $500 and $2,000 per acre per year).

“Our goal is to try to make sure everyone benefits; everyone in the community as well as the company as well as the State of New York as well as landowners,” Luna said. “We want it to be positive for everybody involved.”

Towns and other interested parties also have access to $500,000 in intervener funds – money made available to help towns and groups/individuals evaluate the impact of the project.

“Local people have a voice in this and they will coordinate with ORES as it makes funding available over the next two month to the towns and other interveners,” Luna said. “The towns can use that to get their heads around what exactly is going on. Towns request the amount they need or want, ORES takes a look at every intervener funding request and allocates that funding to the towns and other pertinent entities – with the towns having first place in line.”

Luna did not speak to whether Hecate Energy would be applying for tax incentives or payment in lieu of taxes through the Genesee County Economic Development Center, stating that the process has yet to reach that stage.

DISCOUNT ON CONSUMERS’ ELECTRIC BILLS

He did point out that every resident of Elba and Oakfield will receive a direct utility bill reduction in connection with the project.

“We will send money to the utility that they must take off people’s monthly utility bills … for the first 10 years,” he said. “We pay a fixed amount per year to be distributed to town residents. It will probably about $100 per year for each resident, but that will be determined.”

Luna, responding to a question about the flow of electricity from the system, said power generated on the grid flows to the nearest user of electricity.

“It will be used as close to as it is generated as there is demand for it,” he said, adding that the system would produce enough electricity to power all of Genesee County “and then a little bit more.”

Hecate Energy has entered into a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) contract with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Luna said.

“We sell environmental benefits of the project, which are tracked using these objects called RECs,” he said. “We’ll sell those under contract to the state, or NYSERDA, where they get to retire them and take credit for the ‘green’ goals that the state has – which are quite ambitious.”

He said his company seeks to demonstrate that it is meeting the state’s goals.

“It’s not a contract to sell the power. We’re not selling power; we’re capacity to the state,” he added. “We can sell the power under this contract to the open market so that any user of electricity that is eligible to buy electricity, we can sell it flexibly.”

TORREY MARSHALL: WE CHOOSE TO FARM

maureen-torrey_2.jpgLuna said he has encountered no organized opposition – “I’m knocking on wood as I’m saying that,” he noted – and attributes that to the level of interaction thus far.

“I think it’s a real difference when you’re generally putting these communities first in your mind when you doing anything. I think people can tell. I think it’s really important if people really care about communities when they do these things as it really makes everything a lot better,” he said.

While that may be true, not everyone is thrilled that solar has become such a hot commodity at the expense of farming.

Maureen Torrey Marshall (photo at right) of Torrey Farms, a major agricultural enterprise in Elba and surrounding towns, said she thinks “it’s sad that solar panels are the most viable crop that farmers can grow.”

“Well, you can’t fault anybody because they can’t get that type of return by growing any crops, but it all goes back to New York State,” she said. “I’m on the (Elba) town board and we’re going to try to get as much (money) as we can, but you can’t fault anybody. The town and the school need to benefit as much as they can from this.”

She said that solar is going to change the look of the community – and it’s not about to stop in Elba and Oakfield.

“That is what is going to happen down in the valley along (Interstate) 390, near Mount Morris – all that beautiful farmland in that area. That’s all going to be solar,” she said. “New York has placed a priority on green energy and it has just steamrolled.”

Torrey Marshall said her operation is not leasing land to the project.

“You get letters – these companies are just coming out of the woodwork. To be honest, all of Route 98 going to the Thruway could be solar panels,” she said. “It’s our choice and our choice is to farm.

“Elba has survived on agriculture ever since it was founded. Then you have people saying that this is so great. It’s sad that this is the best viable use for your land right now.”

ZUBER: TAKING FOOD OUT OF OUR MOUTHS

Eric Zuber, of Byron, part of the organized opposition to the Excelsior Energy Project, said he owns farmland on the fringes of the Cider Solar Farm but is not signed up to lease any land.

“The quality of ground they are taking in that one is not the quality of the ground here. It’s productive soil but it isn’t the soil that is being taken for the project in Byron,” he said. “Still, I think all of these projects on farmland are stupid. I think, if I had the right type of guys come in here, they could prove that it will create more carbon than it’s going to prevent.”

Hecate Energy contends that the Elba/Oakfield solar system is projected to offset more than 420,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking over 92,000 average cars off the road annually.

Zuber said he is on board with smaller solar farms on side yards or on roofs of homes, “but when they start doing these big projects, they’re taking the food out of people’s mouths.”

“Go to the grocery store and buy food. What has it done in the last six months? You need another $50 in your pocket to buy your groceries,” he said. “All they’re doing is making people hungrier and making the poor people poorer.”

THE BEST APPLE CIDER IS HERE

Luna acknowledged that not everyone is on board with solar panels along country roads.

“There are always some people who aren’t really excited, which is natural for a project of this scale,” he said. “What we do in that case, which again I think is really positive, is try to interact directly with those people and have one-on-one conversations – because sometimes we can help. If they’re concerned that they will be looking at panels all day, we can put visual screening there that mitigates that visual impact. That can make people feel more comfortable in many cases.”

He said Hecate Energy is committed to community involvement and will be looking at opportunities as the project progresses.

The solar company is hosting a fire training for first responders in Elba and Oakfield next Monday night (June 21) at the Elba Firemen’s Recreation Hall in the village. Luna said it will be a comprehensive training in the event of solar fires or emergency situations in various applications – not just large-scale, ground-mounted systems.

So, as indicated, the clock is ticking on the Cider Solar Farm, a unique name for the project that came into Luna’s mind as he drank a glass of local apple cider.

“Funny enough, the first time I came up to town – I’m not exactly sure where it was – I was on the road looking for land that was suitable and getting prepared for meetings with landowners when I bought some apple cider at some place … and I said that this is the best cider I ever had,” he said. “I’m from Tennessee. I don’t know if it’s something about the climate or something else, but maybe our apples aren’t quite as good. But I really enjoyed the cider.”

Hence the name, Cider Solar Farm.

Comments
June 11, 2021 - 12:42pm

Genesee County Planning Board members Thursday night, on their way to approving the site plan for the Plug Power Inc., green hydrogen facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama, were on the receiving end of an education about the company’s operation from its vice president of project development.

Plug Power, a publicly traded business based in Latham (outside of Albany), is primed to become the first tenant at STAMP – with plans to put up an 8,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building, a 40,000-square-foot electrolyzer building and a 68,000-square-foot compressor building on the Crosby Road tech park.

The company is the world’s largest producer of hydrogen fuel cells that power forklifts and heavy-duty freight and its facility to be located at STAMP will be the largest in North America.

“This is the largest green hydrogen facility in North America by a lot,” Brenor Brophy said. “It actually is the largest green liquid hydrogen facility in the world. So, it is a major step forward in the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

Brophy took planners through the process of taking fresh water and electricity and turning that into hydrogen and oxygen. Plug Power had been making hydrogen cells for the warehouse and logistics industry and, last year, started making its own hydrogen.

“This is a green hydrogen product; fuel that is made from zero-carbon renewable energy,” Brophy said. “This is the hydroelectric energy from Niagara …”

He said Plug Power will harness renewable energy from the new substation that the company is building on the STAMP site – a facility that is large enough to power their entire park.

“We will take about half of that energy for our facility,” he said. “We take fresh water and electricity and we split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The only emission we have from this site is pure oxygen. We take that hydrogen gas and we cool it down to what I call biogenic temperature that turns it into a liquid.”

From there, tanker trucks will transport the liquid hydrogen to Plug Power customers all over the Northeast region.

Brophy said the firm’s customers include Walmart, Kroger’s, Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

He said the plant will produce 45 metric tons of hydrogen per day, with each truck holding about four and a half metric tons.

“So that means there will be approximately 10 trucks per day on average,” he said. “Not every truck is full leaving or (it could be) empty coming back, so it may be 10 to 12 trucks per day, which is quite low.”

Brophy called it a “beautiful site” on 30 acres. He said plans call for the placement of a row of trees along the front to obscure it from the road.

“It is a very important site,” he said. “We are absolutely delighted to be siting it in Western New York as a New York company. This is our first and biggest green hydrogen plant in what will be a national network.”

Planner Tom Schubmehl, who abstained from voting, was prepared with a list of questions about the project that focused on the following:

  • Start-up Date

Brophy said he expects “to finish commissioning” in late 2022 or early 2023.

  • Wastewater

Brophy said there are two components – the sanitary sewer needed for employees on site and discharge of leftover process water.

He said the number of employees on site is not large enough to support the construction of an actual wastewater treatment facility “so we will have a tank system there that will be approved by the DEC that we will have emptied out until such time as the wastewater treatment plant will require construction.”

“As far as what we call the process water … we will have the forced main that will discharge directly into Oak Orchard Creek and will require a permit from the (New York State) DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation).

  • Stormwater

Brophy said a stormwater retention pond is an allowable use in that area.

  • Reconstruction of Crosby Road

This will be done by the Genesee County Economic Development Center – a complete rebuild of the section from Stamp Drive south to the edge of Plug Power’s site. Also, a 12-inch water transmission main will be extended from Route 77 where it currently exists, down Stamp Drive and down Crosby Road to get to the Plug Power site.

  • Tanker Trucks (noting there is parking for 26)

​Brophy said those parked in the staging area will be empty so “when a driver shows up with an empty tanker we will have a full one waiting for them.”

  • Storage Steer

Brophy said that storage unit will hold a week of production.

“It’s a high-resilience network,” he said. “If one goes down, we can support other plants in the network from that. Our customers are folks like Walmart, Kroger or Amazon, and so we can never let that warehouse go down. Amazon can’t go down a week before Christmas so we aim for a really high-resilience network.”

  • Water Usage (noting the facility will use 280,000 gallons per day)

Schubmehl mentioned that Genesee County is calling for residents to conserve water this summer.

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, said there is capacity coming up the line from Pembroke and County Engineer Tim Hens has “put place markers in for projects and Plug Power’s project has been held in the county water, so to speak, as a placeholder for a couple of years now. So, it has been accounted for and is included in those numbers.”

He added that GCEDC is pursuing another water line from Niagara County that could bring in an additional 1.5 million gallons per day.

“But the 280,000 gallons … that has been reserved in capacity in all of the numbers that Tim has been working with,” he reiterated.

Schubmehl responded that he was puzzled by that strategy.

“I just hope that you understand how difficult that is to know that this is what has been held in reserve while county residents are being told not to water their lawns this week,” he said. “It just seems a little odd.”

Comments
June 9, 2021 - 1:09pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Genesee Valley BOCES students as high school seniors have the opportunity to meet with area companies about jobs and career opportunities. 

Tuesday afternoon students from the Electrical Mechanical Program at the Batavia CTE spoke with Turnbull HVAC (photo above) and HP Hood (photo below) representatives about career opportunities for students completing training at the CTE.

The event is being sponsored by the Genesee County Business-Education Alliance, Genesee Valley BOCES Batavia CTE Campus and the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Comments
May 29, 2021 - 10:47am

Updated: May 30, 12:30 p.m., with job creation details

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While acknowledging ongoing opposition and unsightly solar panels, Byron Town Supervisor Peter Yasses said the municipality has won the lottery as a result of its Host Community Benefit agreement with Excelsior Energy Center LLC – the company proposing to build a 280-megawatt solar system in the town under Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law.

“You’ve won the lottery, but you’ve won the lottery for 20 years,” Yasses said on Friday in discussing the status of the project, which would turn 46 parcels of farmland covering about 1,600 acres into a sea of solar panels. “Every year this check comes – with a 2-percent increase. To me, that’s huge for the town.”

The check that Yasses is talking about is the $1,006,522 that Excelsior Energy would write to the town in year one of a 20-year HCB fee schedule that increases by 2 percent each year. Per the contract, the first annual check would arrive within 30 days after the start of construction.

All told, combining a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) with the Genesee County Economic Development Center, special district charges, agricultural exemption revenue and the negotiated host benefit fee, the Town of Byron – if the project receives final approval – would be on the receiving end of $24 million over the two decades.

Yasses said he and the town board took a stand to get what they felt was a fair price for the cost of losing the aesthetics of farmland and fields.

“We had to go into this with an open mind. At any means, it’s not going to be pretty for the town as far as having to look at the panels,” he said. “But it really has nothing to do with our town board. This is getting rammed down our throats by (Gov.) Andrew Cuomo through Article 10.”

The Article 10 provision (which is being replaced by Office of Renewable Energy Siting) authorizes the state’s Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to oversee development of large solar facilities, bypassing much local control.

Siting Board Public Hearing is Tuesday

On Tuesday (June 1), the siting board will be conducting a public statement hearing -- a key step toward the end of the Article 10 process – via teleconference from New York City with Administrative Law Judge Gregg Sayre presiding.

Two sessions are scheduled – 1 and 6 p.m. – for community members to participate.

A determination on a permit to proceed with the project is expected by April. Developers are anticipating the solar system will be operational by the end of 2023.

Yasses said attorneys hired by the town during this process, which started more than two years ago, told board members their hands were tied.

“When a lawyer sits you down in executive session and says, ‘It’s coming whether you like it or not and there is nothing you can do about it,’ that paints a different picture in your mind,” he said. “Again, these aren’t going to be looking pretty in our town – we know that; the town board knows that. However, we had to do what is best for the people that have to look at these things.”

Yasses: We Changed Our Game Plan

Yasses said the board changed its approach from “defense to offense,” and through five months of negotiations forged a deal that it felt was justified.

“Paul (town attorney Paul Boylan) and I were charged with the negotiation and I, knowing what these things (panels) look like, did not want to sell out my town. At first they were talking nowhere near this kind of money and some of the propaganda they were dishing out – it was something like $400,000 to $500,000 a year. That’s peanuts,” he said.

“I said, ‘No way, I want a million (dollars). I won’t say who … but there were some big people in the county and town who said, ‘You’re dreaming.’ I said that’s my threshold. I want a million dollars a year for the Town of Byron. I have to live here, my people have to live here, my kids are going to live here and my grandkids are going to live here.”

Yasses said the HCB agreement was signed on April 28 at a board meeting via Zoom.

“The board was pleased,” he said, adding that he believes about a third of the annual payment can be used for property tax relief.

“Approximately a third of it will be injected into our budget,” he said. “I can’t say that the tax rate will go down but this is going to help not to raise taxes because Genesee County cut our sales tax distribution by more than that. We took some pretty drastic measures to keep ourselves in good shape, but I’m not sure the tax rate will go down.”

Residents Will Have a Voice

He said it will be up to town residents as far as how to spend the remainder of the windfall.

“Most likely, we will hire a financial advisor and we’ll probably select a committee through the citizens to help us come up with wants and needs,” he said. “It’s the community’s money and I want the community to have a say on how they spend their money.”

A closer look at the financials involved with the project reveal that the town, Genesee County and the Byron-Bergen Central School District will benefit from the PILOT negotiated between Excelsior Energy Center and the GCEDC.

Per the HCB fee schedule, the county would get $281,775 in year one and the school district would get $675,703 in year one. The town’s share would be $120,522 and, again, these payments come with a 2-percent annual escalator clause.

The GCEDC Board of Directors is expected to vote on tax incentives for Excelsior Energy Center at its meeting on June 3. Excelsior is seeking $21,498,313 in property tax abatements over the 20 years and $11,288,287 in sales tax abatements (for construction materials).

Jim Krencik, GCEDC director of marketing and communications, said Excelsior Energy would be investing $345.55 million – with $1.82 million in the first year alone to the three taxing jurisdictions based on $6,500 per megawatt.

$84.7 Million Into the Local Economy

“Excelsior’s investment over the 20-year project horizon is estimated to generate $117.5 million into the local economy when you consider the total PILOT payments, host community agreement, estimated fire district payments and related tax reductions, and construction purchases and payroll,” Krencik said.

The solar company said 290 full-time equivalent jobs will be created during the construction phase and 3.1 FTE during project operation and maintenance (solar technician, tech leader and high voltage technician).

Krencik pointed out that when subtracting the tax incentives from the direct economic impact figure, the direct benefit in excess of costs is $84.7 million over the 20 years.

And, of course, the farmers who have signed contracts with Excelsior Energy to lease their land will reap financial rewards.

Yasses said that he and others from the town will be on the siting board public hearing call on Tuesday and expects that those in opposition will be as well.

“We have heard those against it loud and clear. But, we had to do what we felt was right for the community,” he said. “This the best deal in New York State. We had some people scratching their heads wondering how we got it. It was through tough negotiations – that’s how we got it.”

Previously: GCEDC's public hearing on the Town of Byron solar project: An 'incentive' for parties to voice their opinions

Comments
May 19, 2021 - 4:53pm

Submitted images and press release:

After public input and multiple stakeholder engagement sessions for the reconfiguration of Jackson Square, and with the preliminary design finished, the final design will now advance to full engineering, permitting and construction in the next few months. The project is expected to be completed next spring.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced eight transformational projects for Downtown Batavia as part of $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Enhancing Jackson Square was one of the eight projects chosen to receive a strategic investment grant of $750,000 to transform public space in a public plaza. 

“The upgraded public plaza will become a lively hub and common space for community interaction, and provide connections to multiple businesses through its unique configuration," said Eugene Jankowski Jr., City of Batavia Council president and DRI cochair.

"As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I am happy to see the City complete this project and be able to offer citizens and visitors a unique experience in Downtown Batavia."

Jackson Square, a public gathering space bordered by historic buildings in the heart of Downtown, will be transformed with decorative pavement upgrades, a professional multipurpose stage, seating, lighting and decorative signage. 

“Jackson Square is a hidden gem in the City of Batavia, currently hosting lively concerts and urban events," said Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center and cochair of the Batavia DRI. "After the project is complete the Square will bring in more opportunities for the community to gather creating a downtown neighborhood."

Architectural Resources is the architectural firm selected to design the reconfiguration project, which is on schedule will go out to bid this winter.

“We received feedback from the residents, the Batavia Business Improvement District (BID), Batavia Development Corporation (BDC), adjoining building owners, and users of the square," said City Manager Rachael Tabelski. "The pavement and lighting elements will give a square a historical feel in a unique urban setting."

The concept integrates many historical layers of Batavia including the Great Bend -- changing the trajectory of the Tonawanda Creek, the Ancient Seneca Footpaths, and the history of “old” downtown Batavia.

“The BID was engaged throughout the entire process including selecting the design firm, reviewing and refining the project," said Beth Kemp, executive director of the BID. "The adjacent building owners were consulted, as well as the multiple users of the square to advance the project. Jackson Square will continue to drive community events and business to Downtown Batavia."

Input received at each of the two public meeting informed the design of Jackson Square. The design of the stage and canopy was revised based on suggestions that were made during the second public meeting.

“I am excited to have been a part of the design committee to advance this project on behalf of the City," said Andrew Maguire, executive director of the BDC. "The BDC intends to seek additional funding for the project by applying for a National Grid Urban Corridor Grant. That funding could provide for furniture and more lighting elements in the Square."

Enhancements of Jackson Square will continue to advance the City of Batavia’s efforts to create a lively and prosperous Downtown. It will provide a gathering space and performance venue for the community and open up new opportunities.

In combination with other DRI projects advancing in the City, Batavia continues to find, new ways revitalize existing buildings and spaces.

Comments
February 11, 2021 - 6:57pm

At first glance, one might think that a major metropolitan area such as Austin, Texas, or Phoenix, Arizona, would have major advantages over the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park – better known as STAMP – when it comes to convincing an international corporation to build a semiconductor facility in the Town of Alabama.

But not so fast, says Steve Hyde, chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, who participated in a video interview with Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, earlier today.

Hyde, when given the opportunity to “sell the STAMP site,” didn’t hesitate -- coming up with several reasons why it would be beneficial for a company such as Samsung, for example, to build a $13 billion chip manufacturing plant at STAMP.

Recent published reports indicated that Samsung was considering STAMP – as well as the Austin and Phoenix areas – for a new semiconductor plant and that the Albany-based Plug Power was planning on operating a “green hydrogen” facility at the Genesee County park.

“STAMP can really compete and they (potential tenants) have got to take a serious look at us,” Hyde said. “That’s why we’re seeing opportunities in a big way right now in the marketplace.”

Hyde backed up that statement by pointing out that STAMP is located between two metropolitan areas (Buffalo and Rochester), has a growing and hungry workforce, and has access to low-cost green energy, and also the fact that New York does not impose “personal property taxes” on manufacturing equipment – a significant savings to these mega companies.

“There are very discreet advantages here in Western New York that you want to seize upon and emphasize,” Hyde said. “And they also need to consider that against some of the challenges in a market that has been a boomtown for 25 years (speaking of Austin) … that you have incredible competition for the workforce there right now.”

He noted that in Austin, the home of Tesla, Oracle, Texas Instruments and Samsung, big companies are competing for the same set of workers.

“Plus, the infrastructure there is overwhelmed and the congestion is crazy. So, there’s some challenges there relative to workforce,” he said. “When you look at us, we’re at a distance of a mile a minute you can literally travel on the highways. And there’s a well-qualified workforce from New York’s second- and third-largest metros. And for the pay rate at STAMP (estimated at $75,000 to $100,000 annually) … those workers will drive 30 to 45 minutes.”

Hyde also said another big advantage is that New York doesn’t charge “personal property taxes.”

“All of the manufacturing equipment in Texas is taxed as personal property taxes. So, when you really look closely at it, we’re going to be really aggressive on the incentive side with the state … and will be far less expensive than Austin because we don’t tax the equipment that will be two-thirds the cost of the project,” he explained.

He also pointed out that this area has good workforce solutions, noting that area colleges, including Genesee Community College, and Genesee Valley BOCES are building degree programs for high-tech industry.

“These big projects that we’re talking about, whether it’s a big renewable project or semiconductor, (they’re) huge power users,” Hyde said. “They want green power and we’ve got the New York Power Authority and we’ve got Niagara Falls less than 30 miles away. We have some of the lowest-cost green energy available in all of North America – like half of what it costs in Austin.

“So, you look at power, you look at operating costs, our labor is about 10 percent cheaper than Austin right now because the market has run up so much. Those factors are a huge part of the cost profile of running an operation like this.”

Hyde’s comments come in the face of a story in the Buffalo-based Investigative Post that indicates Samsung is leaning toward Austin as the site for the microchip factory that would employ about 1,800 people.

According to the Investigative Post report:

  • Austin “appears to have a leg up, as it is already home to Samsung Austin Semiconductor, which has 2,500 employees;
  • Samsung has purchased 250 acres of land next to its existing facility and has applied for zoning variances, and is seeking more than $1 billion in incentives to build there. It quoted Nate Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin, as saying Samsung’s odds of expanding there are “north of 90 percent.”
  • Roger Kay, a market analyst with Boston-based Endpoint Technologies Associates, said that Austin has “the inside track” and suggested other sites, including STAMP, “are most likely involved to help the company drive up the value of incentives in Austin.”

Hyde remains optimistic, stating:

“We’ve been eating this elephant a bite at a time as capital becomes available. You know what, though, we’re finally just now arriving at the season where we built the initial pieces of the infrastructure for the site and we can accommodate smaller projects. But we’ve got all of the big infrastructure fully designed, fully permitted and fully ready to build … and now the big projects are inside that window.”

Comments
February 3, 2021 - 11:55am

gcedc_solar_1.jpg

The Batavia Town Planning Board was introduced to another community solar project on Tuesday night – a plan to install a 1.65-megawatt system on vacant land owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. on R. Stephen Hawley Drive (College Road) – and, right away, was peppered with comments about the need to shield the array from a nearby home.

Planners held a public hearing in connection with a special use permit request by Batavia Solar LLC to put the ground-mounted solar farm at 99 Med Tech Drive, near the Genesee County Economic Development Center office.

James Taravella, senior civil engineer with LaBella Associates, Orchard Park, told the board that 5.63 acres of the 7.95-acre parcel, located in a Planned Unit Development district, will be fenced in for this solar array. He said the project calls for the installation of approximately 4,500 modules using a fixed access racking system.

Other features of the project include an access road with a 13- by 20-foot equipment pad and a 6 foot high chain-link fence around the entire layout. Taravella said all setbacks are in line with requirements of the PUD District – 50-foot front setback, 30-foot side setback and 40-foot rear setback.

As soon as he finished, Tim Morrow, a resident of Ellicott Street Road, asked if the owners of a home near the proposed solar array have been contacted about the project, stating that he is “looking out for the town and the community because I have the situation out by my house.”

Morrow has spoken out at previous public hearings and meetings against the Trousdale Solar I and Trousdale Solar II projects proposed for land owned by Donald Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

Taravella: 'We're Communicating with the Neighbors'

Taravella said that representatives of Batavia Solar LLC are communicating with Robert and Michelle Wood of 8244 Batavia-Stafford Townline Road, whose home is in close proximity to the proposed solar array.

Morrow then asked if the developers planned to shield the solar farm with a berm or trees.

“At this early stage we have not put any screening but it is typical for a screening plan to be implemented as the project progresses,” Taravella said, adding that he plans to work with the Woods to “develop something that they will be happy with.”

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang informed those on the Zoom call that the Town of Batavia has specifications for its solar projects, including a decommissioning bond and a call for trees, berms and surface vegetation to ensure a view “that is as natural as possible in accordance with our code.”

At that point, Michelle Wood spoke up, acknowledging that she and her husband are the landowners.

“We really would like a berm put along the back of it – it protects us and our house,” she said. “We’re OK and in favor of a solar farm there. We would prefer a solar farm versus a cement industrial building there, so we don’t have a real problem with it. We would just like for them to come to us with what their ideas are and what they’re planning to do.”

Planners Want Extensive Screening

Later on, during the regular meeting, planners asked Taravella to develop a screening plan that shields the Wood house “not only from looking out their back window but also from their side window, over to the driveway” and asked him to create visual simulations showing as such.

Furthermore, board members requested screening around the entire project, including the view from College Road. Taravella said that is an early consideration as developers have to make sure that some of the fixed-angle panels are not shaded by trees or berms.

Going forward, Town Engineer Steve Mountain advised that developers should submit a long-form State Environmental Quality Review to provide as much information to the planning board, which then voted in favor of seeking lead agency status for the project.

Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski said the board will invite Taravella back after getting the SEQR form, which takes about 30 days, and talk about the special use permit.

In other action, the planning board:

  • Following a public hearing, approved a special use permit for Janice Smith, 9149 Creek Road in the Town of Batavia, to convert an existing barn in an agricultural-residential district as a venue for weddings and other events.

“I have a large barn; I have property,” Smith said. “We went through this last year with my son where he got married, and he didn’t have a place to have it, so I would like to offer that (option) to other people. We don’t really have anything like that around here so …”

Discussion centered around the number of parking spots available on the property and whether the surface would be paved or left as grass.

Smith said there would be 157 parking spots on a grass surface, adding that the ground was “completely flat” and that she didn’t anticipate any problems being that the barn would be used during the warm weather months.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said that he has made several visits to the site and found “no difficulties” as the ground was solid, and there also were areas of stone and gravel.

Smith also responded to a question about possible noise issues related to music being played at the venue but said there are no neighbors for miles to the east or west and the closest neighbor otherwise were her parents.

Previously, the referral was recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board with modifications that the applicant provide a revised site plan with the location and number of parking spots serving the party venue; and applies for 9-1-1 Address Verification to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office to ensure that the address of the proposed event venue meets Enhanced 9-1-1 standards*.

*Enhanced 911, E-911 or E911 is a system used in North America to automatically provide the caller's location to 9-1-1 dispatchers. 911 is the universal emergency telephone number in the region.
  • Approved a site plan and SEQR and declared itself as lead agency for the construction of a LandPro (John Deere sales and service company) sales, storage and maintenance facility at 4554 W. Saile Drive, near the Volvo Rents equipment building.

The venture initially came before the board in December and was also reviewed by county planners.

“I think you might be pretty familiar with the project by now. Obviously, we’re looking to go ahead and build on approximately 14 and a half acres on West Saile Drive,” said Project Designer Andrew Schmieder.

Schmieder said the project consists of a 28,000-square-foot maintenance building with about 15 bays for work on agricultural equipment and another five or six bays for work on turf equipment. He said that the main sales and parts storage facility is around 22,000 square feet and it will include office space to accommodate the transfer of administrative employees to the site.

Additionally, there will be about 7,000 square feet allocated to parts storage and LandPro officials are proposing to erect a 200- by 75-foot pole barn for cold storage, Schmieder said.

“This site lends itself very well to what’s being proposed – we’ve got a lot of room out there,” he said. “There’s an area out front to display some of their turf and ag equipment.”

Responding to concerns over increased traffic, Schmieder said he didn’t expect a significant change. He said during peak hours, they expect 10 to 15 vehicle customers per hour, and three to four cargo deliveries per day to the facility that will house about 65 employees.

Schmieder reported that there will be a minimum of 70 parking spots for employees and another 40 for retail customers, including six handicapped parking spaces.

Final approval is contingent upon final town engineering review and approval. Work is anticipated to be completed in the spring or summer of 2022.

Rendering at top (taken from Zoom meeting) shows the proposed solar project on Med Tech Drive off R. Stephen Hawley Drive (College Road), The Wood residence is at the right.

Comments
December 4, 2020 - 2:16pm

From Chris Suozzi (inset photo left), vice president of Business and Workforce Development at the Genesee County Economic Development Center:

"Coach Swaz." That’s how a lot of people know me, even in economic development circles.

A great team, like the Buffalo Bills and all of our partners at the Genesee County Economic Development Center, is built on talented players and motivated coaches. Building on our economic growth in Genesee County is achieved through teamwork.

For our youth, that coaching can build connections to careers that put them in a position where they can succeed quickly by tapping into their talents and passion. Through Genesee FAST (Food processing, Advanced manufacturing, Skilled trades, and Technician) we can mentor, educate and train our youth for career opportunities with companies across the GLOW region. This allows us to move fast in helping companies with the job demands in their respective workplaces.

I want to reference a couple of examples of how this is being demonstrated. Graham Corporation recently purchased and installed a new welding simulator for the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center’s Metal Trades Program at Genesee Valley BOCES. It is a great example of how our growing companies are building connections with students in preparing the next generation of skilled welders. I applaud Graham Corporation’s vision and support of Genesee Valley BOCES.

Andrew Geyer’s welding students at the Batavia CTE are currently training on real world scenarios and are encouraged to get even more involved with youth apprenticeships. By taking the appropriate courses, participating in relevant activities and focusing on developing their skills we are providing students the playbook for success.

In 2019, more than 1,000 students, educators and guests participated in a single-day event at the Genesee County Fairgrounds – GLOW With Your Hands. In my role as cochair of GLOW With Your Hands along with GLOW Workforce Development Board Executive Director Jay Lazarony, we knew our entire volunteer team had to make a dramatic pivot for 2020 because of the pandemic. And we achieved success by going virtual.

Providing students with hands-on opportunities at the GLOW With Your Hands event last year was extremely impactful. Providing that same experience this year seemed like a monumental task, but we are reaching even more kids than last year making deeper connections with the launch of www.GLOWWithYourHandsVirtual.com

Karyn Winters, the director of the Genesee County Business Education Alliance, and Angela Grouse, director of education to employment initiatives for the Livingston County Area Chamber of Commerce, are leading all of our volunteers across the GLOW region in this effort. They once again enlisted companies to turn a hands-on event into an on-demand platform for our students to pursue great career opportunities.

GLOW With Your Hands Virtual demonstrates the career pathways that our students can take in securing family sustaining jobs and, more importantly, remaining part of our community by staying here and raising their own families.

I encourage everyone who wants to see Genesee County continue to grow and prosper by putting our kids in a position to win, to please visit the GLOW With Your Hands Virtual website and start discussing these careers with our youth. You can be a great coach.

Coach Swaz’s Career of the Month: Welding

There are dozens of careers that we are encouraging parents to share with kids in middle school and high school using the GLOW With Your Hands Virtual website. This month, I recommend warming up with the welding profile and seeing how welder-fabricators succeed.

Below is a YouTube video about welders and welding at Oxbo International Corp. in Byron, courtesy of the GCEDC.

Comments
October 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

A decrease in the Genesee County property tax rate and a much smaller than anticipated increase in the Town of Batavia property tax rate.

That’s the latest word from the managers of both municipalities who shared developments from today’s meetings with the legislature and town board, respectively, concerning their 2021 budgets.

“We’ve had several budget meetings with our county legislature and at this point and time I’m ready to propose a county budget that has a decrease in the (property) tax rate of approximately 31 cents down to $9.80 (per thousand of assessed value) from $10.11,” said first-year County Manager Matt Landers.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post had encouraging news as well, reporting that his current budget calls for about a 39-cent increase – from $2.45 per thousand to $2.84 – which is considerably less than the potential 88- or 89-percent increase that was bandied about a couple weeks ago.

“Everyone should thank the county legislators for their hard work to make it possible for the revenue distributions they have just made,” Post said, referring to a final 2020 payment of $6 million and a pledge to distribute $10 million in 2021 to the county’s 13 towns and six villages. “Now, we feel much better about taking $550,000 from our fund balance to make this happen.”

Both budgets are tentative and subject to change, but in all likelihood any modifications should be slight at this point.

Holding the Line Paved the Way

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she was hoping that her colleagues and management would be wrong in August (when they predicted a dire outcome).

“I’m glad we were, so we could increase this amount up to 10 million dollars,” she said of the 2021 revenue distribution, which is $2 million more than previously announced. She then applauded the efforts of everyone involved, noting that she appreciated their “work and consistency and your sticking with us.”

Landers echoed her sentiments, pointing out that the moves the legislature has made over the past six months, under the direction of Stein and former County Manager Jay Gsell, “have helped put us in a (good) position and helped me to put together this budget.”

“We’ve been able to fund our roads and bridges to the level that I’d like to fund them in 2021 … and they made a lot of good decisions … on furloughs, hiring freezes, deferring capital projects, deferring acquisitions.”

In order to lower the tax rate, Landers is proposing using about $2.3 million of the county’s $15 million fund balance. He said that is necessary due to a projected 20-percent (or more) cut in aid from New York State.

“We still don’t know if there’s going to be a stimulus for governments,” he said. “The stimulus isn’t anything I am looking toward for revenue replacement; the stimulus would benefit Genesee County primarily in that it would provide revenue to the state, and the state would not have to cut us.”

A 20-percent cut in state aid translates to a $2 million hit to the county’s budget, which will come in at around $144 million.

Sales Tax Numbers Better Than Anticipated

“As you saw in the resolution tonight (at the legislature meeting where the revenue allocations were approved), we’re going to budget $10 million of revenue distribution to our towns and villages in 2021,” Landers said. “We are projecting a small reduction in sales tax, but not anything that we would have thought six months ago. There were estimates that sales tax would be down 30 to 40 percent, but now we’re projecting a 5- to 10-percent reduction in sales tax.”

With sales tax numbers better than expected, the county is able to provide $10 million next year to support the towns and villages.

Landers said he and department heads went through the budget line-by-line during a couple Saturday morning workshop sessions and he “feels comfortable at this point submitting a budget that has roughly a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate, with a levy increase of approximately $400,000 (due to an increase in the county’s assessed value).

“I wish we could do more; I wish we could reduce taxes more,” he said. “It’s one of those (situations) where I’m glad we could come to a consensus with the legislature. I’m glad that we’ve got a balanced budget that I’m going to be proposing and once it goes from my hands to the legislature, it's their ability to modify it and amend it as they see fit.”

He said he expects the legislature to “tweak a thing or two,” but is relieved to have made it this far in the budget process.

“I’m glad to get through my first budget session. I never envisioned putting one together in a pandemic and a financial crisis, but I am glad that we are able to have a stabilized tax rate for Genesee County citizens,” he said. “I understand that it is going to utilize a little more fund balance than we like to, but that’s what the ‘rainy day’ fund is for. If we potentially didn’t have a 20-percent reduction in our state aid, we might have been able to have the possibility of further reductions (in the tax rate), which would have been great.”

Landers said the county’s fund balance is at 12 to 13 percent of its general fund expenditures – the proper level according to guidelines from the state Comptroller’s office.

The spending plan will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Old County Courthouse. It is slated to be adopted by the legislature on Nov. 23.

Town Supervisor Breathes a Bit Easier

Post said he expects to get a good night’s sleep tonight for the first time in months after coming out of a budget workshop this afternoon at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The town received word that it would be getting another revenue check from the county in the amount of $1 million this year and just shy of $1.7 million from the county in 2021.

While the $1.7 million is less than what board members originally had hoped for, it is enough for them to be able to allot $550,000 from the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

“That, plus the fact that our investments are beating the market rate by a factor of six times, puts us in position to do that,” Post said, letting out a sigh of relief.

He attributed the town’s ability to weather the economic storm to its collaboration with the county, City of Batavia and Genesee County Economic Development Center that has resulted in developing “multiple streams of income.”

“This all started 12 years ago … by incentivizing businesses that provide sales tax revenue,” Post explained. “All of these entities have collectively applied those principals to our community and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The town board has indicated it will conduct a special work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20, prior to adopting a preliminary budget on Oct. 21. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Comments
May 15, 2020 - 8:51am

The Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night recommended approval of a zoning text amendment to allow mixed-use buildings in the Town of Pembroke Interchange District, but not before a discussion on the practice of placing housing units in industrial parks.

Tom Schubmehl, a member of the planning board and Pembroke resident, said he had some reservations about the Town Board’s application to modify zoning in the Interchange District -- a wide area around Thruway Exit 48A, extending to Route 5 along Route 77.

“Is there any other district in the county industrial districts that allows residential use? Schubmehl asked, directing his question to County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari.

Oltramari said that the Interchange District was different from a traditional industrial district.

“It can have commercial and it can have industrial … it has the Flying J (Travel Center). It has other things like that and includes an industrial park from the EDC,” Oltramari said, adding that he couldn’t think of other similar areas in the county that permit mixed-use facilities.

Schubmehl said he couldn’t either and said “it is a concern of mine that we start letting residential fill in this space. It's going to be no different than the rest of Pembroke.”

“I know it has no bearing on the impact of inter-community that we're discussing here tonight as a County Planning Board, but as a resident of Pembroke, I think it's bad idea,” he stated.

$3 Million Commercial/Resident Project Proposed

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is touting a $3 million commercial/residential project at its Buffalo East Technology Park, which is situated in the Interchange District.

J & R Fancher Property Holdings LLC has proposed building a 32,254-square-foot, three-story facility on two acres in the park, and is waiting for a public hearing and GCEDC board vote on its application to receive more than $600,000 in property, sales and mortgage tax incentives.

According to the GCEDC, the project consists of 17 market-rate, one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors, with space for four commercial tenants, as well as indoor parking and a fitness center on the ground floor.

Chris Suozzi, GCEDC vice president of business development, was on the planning board’s Zoom videoconference meeting last night, and pointed out that his agency worked with the Town of Pembroke on attracting the venture.

“They were all in favor for it,” Suozzi said. “Certainly, there's a housing shortage need in Genesee County. If anybody hasn't seen the housing study that LaBella (Associates) put out, (it’s) on the Genesee County website. And there's a big shortage of housing.”

GCEDC: 'Live, Work, Play' Model

Suozzi said the GCEDC is promoting a “live, work, play model” and that housing – particularly at industrial parks -- is an essential component in that thinking.

“And I know the location … in Pembroke is a great location because it's across from the school and already has a Tim Hortons that wasn't part of the EDC project, but it has that ability to be right next door to it and also has 7.9 acres in total that is being proposed, of which 2 (acres) are buildable and the other 5.9 are wetlands,” Suozzi offered. “They're all protected. It's a green space.”

He went on to say the project will generate tax revenue for the Town of Pembroke and reiterated that the town board is endorsing it.

Schubmehl then asked Suozzi if the GCEDC was going to consider residential at the WNY Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in the Town of Alabama.

“Well, you know, if the town said yes, I would certainly look at it, but it's not really up to Chris Suozzi and it’s not up to the EDC -- it's up to the municipality,” he said, again referencing a housing shortage.

“We look at economic development as a whole, and we bring in these companies … and the workers are living in Rochester and Buffalo, (so) we’re not optimizing the economic benefit of Genesee County,” he said. “And that's what that housing studies are showing; (that) there's a big need and we're missing the boat in terms of that revenue staying right in our county.

“So, to me, this is a new world right now and housing’s a big part of it, and the 'live, work, play' model is starting to change what's going on Downtown Buffalo right now … It's because all these old factories are being recondition and rehabbed and the millennials are jumping all over them and they're seeing growth in their workforce.”

Director Promotes Mixed Use for STAMP Site

Oltramari said he could foresee mixed-use buildings at the STAMP site, especially in a technology district closest to the hamlet of Alabama.

“I could see mixed-use buildings in that because the whole point of that is sort of having like an actual link between the hamlet and the business park,” he said. “You could have commercial businesses on the bottom floor, sort of like a main street kind of scenario. And I think that's been the vision for, you know, that kind of part of the park for a while now. So, I think even the town would be in favor of that at STAMP.”

Schubmehl asked whether or not the “live, work” model was actually in the proposal in front of the board, which prompted Oltramari to say he didn’t see it as a major issue.

“I think the era of separating uses, just for the sake of it commercial from residential or, you know, the whole reasoning behind that is to keep incompatible uses apart,” he said. “I don’t see that as a reason anymore, especially in the business parks.”

Planning Board Chair Laraine Caton then asked for a vote and all members, including Schubmehl, voted in favor of the request.

“No, I'm not opposed to it for the purposes as a planning board, we’re worried about inter-community problems here,” Schubmehl said. “And that's not an inter-community problem.”

In other action, planners:

-- Recommended approval with modifications of a special use permit for Jesse and Jolene Coots of Le Roy to operate an ATV, automotive event, hill climb, mud bog and time trial course on 10 acres of a 110-acre vacant parcel of land that they own on Perry Road in Pavilion.

The applicants said they plan to hold events two or three times this year (with the schedule dependent upon the COVID-19 pandemic).

The board’s modifications focus on the applicant obtaining written documentation from NYS Department of Conservation that the project will not be encroaching on wetlands as well as a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the potential Federal Wetlands. It also asks that the Coots submit an application for 9-1-1 Address Verification to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office to ensure that an address is assigned that meets Enhanced 9-1-1 standards.

-- Recommended approval with modifications of a special use permit request from Waifin Properties LLC of Clarence Center to operate a contractor’s yard in a Commercial District at 850 Main Road, Pembroke.

The proposed yard would encompass a 100-foot by 100-foot area on a 7.6-acre lot.

The board said the applicant is required to surround equipment and materials storage area with a fence of at least 8 feet high that has a gate, which shall be closed and locked except during working hours.

Comments
July 11, 2019 - 10:00pm

Genesee County Economic Development Center directors today accepted an application for $156,312 in tax incentives from Provident Batavia LLC, setting the stage for a public hearing, likely to take place at the Batavia Town Hall at a date to be announced.

In presenting the application to the board, Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, acknowledged the company, known as SCP Distributors LLC at 4430 Saile Drive, has successfully made all of the payments required per a 2005 payment in lieu of taxes agreement and is now on the tax rolls.

“The company is doing what they said they would do,” Masse said, noting that its number of full-time equivalent employees has grown from seven to 15 over the past eight years.

Responding to a question about a New York State Subsidy Tracker report that showed that Provident Batavia LLC lost jobs in 2011 and 2012, while receiving $25,700 in subsidies, Masse said his records reveal otherwise.

“Their application at that time stated that they would retain 12 jobs, not create 12 jobs, and what happened was that it was incorrectly inputted – doubling 12 to 24,” he said, adding that the online tracking system had its share of issues at the outset.

This new request is being tied to a 13,000-square-foot addition to the existing office, warehouse and distribution facility estimated to cost the company $1.194 million, broken down as follows:

-- $1.048 million for building cost;
-- $50,000 in land/engineering/architecture;
-- $40,000 in taxable equipment;
-- $55,750 in other expenses.

The project is estimated to produce a state and regional economic impact of $594,122 and $61,516, respectively, in property taxes over a 10-year period, and would enable SCP Distributors to retain 15 FTE’s with an average salary of $38,000, Masse reported.

Company officials are seeking property tax saving of $86,774, sales tax exemption of $57,988 and a mortgage tax exemption of $11,550. Upon approval after the public hearing, the project is expected to start in August and take about four months to complete.

SCP Distributors has more than 2,000 employees and 120,000 wholesale customers worldwide, and is part of the world’s largest wholesale distributor of swimming pool supplies and related equipment. The company is a supplier to local businesses, including Denny’s Pool World and Deep Blue Pool & Spa.

In other action, the board:

-- Approved a $10,000 contract with Clark Patterson Lee for bidding services related to the Town of Pembroke Corfu Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Masse said the Town of Pembroke and the GCEDC (or Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp.) will split the cost 50/50 for the first phase of the project, which will require CPL to provide up to 20 sets of plans, specifications and contract documents to prospective bidders.

The second phase, which will be addressed at a later date, carries a $205,000 price tag for project management, construction administration, construction inspection and stormwater pollution prevention plan inspections.

-- Approved a contract with Leaton Signs for two 4-foot by 8-foot free standing signs as the Le Roy Food & Tech Park and one 4-foot by 8-foot freestanding sign at Apple Tree Acres in Bergen at a cost of $600 per sign.

-- Approved measures connected to the STAMP site in the Town of Alabama for additional surveys (Frandina Engineering & Land Surveying for $2,230), site assessments (CPL, $1,500), to remain the lead agency for an updated state environmental quality review and to dedicate the name of the main road as STAMP Drive (per a resolution passed by the Alabama Town Board).

-- Heard a report from President/CEO Steve Hyde, who expressed his disappointment in the State Legislature’s recent passing of a farm workers labor bill that is set to go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signing.

“It’s egregious; very damaging to our farmers,” Hyde said, mentioning that farm owners would have to pay overtime to workers after 60 hours in a week.

The bill also gives farm workers the right to one full day of rest per week, eligibility for unemployment insurance and workers compensation coverage, and the right to organize a union and to collectively bargain.

----

Hyde, following the meeting, provided an update on Ellicott Station in the City of Batavia and called upon Cuomo to step in to kick-start the City’s first big Downtown Revitalization Initiative project.

“We need the governor’s help to make this come together,” said Hyde, noting that program requirements of several state agencies are keeping the Savarino Companies of Buffalo’s plan from moving forward. “This is an opportunity to transform blighted property at the gateway of our city – (an eyesore) that reinforces poverty.”

Plans for the $20 million renovation of the former Santy’s Tire and Soccio & Della Penna property on Ellicott Street were unveiled in March 2016, but City leaders are still waiting for a shovel to be put into the ground.

Savarino Companies is proposing a mixed-use development of residential, office and retail spaces, including a brewery, small beverage warehouse and hops processing facility; as well as an entertainment and event area with outside seating and a tie-in to the new Ellicott Trail pedestrian pathway.

Comments
June 20, 2017 - 9:30pm

Update:

A planned public hearing at Tuesday night's City Planning & Development Committee meeting was postponed until next month to give Ellicott Station offiicals more time to deal with State Environmental Quality Review and other issues, said Duane Preston, chair of the planning board.

"We did a sketch plan review and overall it seems to be a great project," Preston said.

He said questions from the board focused on the height of the five-story apartment building -- "it will result in a bit of an up-and-down skyline," Preston said -- as well as the amount of parking and the size of a glass front facade.

---------------

No one from the public spoke at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall where $1.5 million in mortgage, sales and property tax abatements for the Ellicott Station project were presented.

The hearing was officiated by Chris Suozzi, Genesee County Economic Development Center vice president of business development. The completion of the public hearing now sets the stage for the GCEDC Board of Directors to approve the tax incentives as outlined in a press release below.

Samuel Savarino, president of Savarino Companies and developer of Ellicott Station, attended the public hearing, along with Julie Pacatte, Pier Cipollone and Mary Valle of the Batavia Development Corporation.

Savarino noted that he would be at the meeting of the Batavia Planning & Development Committee tonight, along with the project's architect and site engineer.

The Buffalo businessman said he has encountered numerous "challenges" with the project, but the biggest one -- getting proper financial aid -- already has been overcome.

"We have surmounted the major hurdle, closing the $5 million gap with help from Empire State Development and new market tax credits to make this happen," he said. "Overarching development costs make it difficult to make the economics work (without state assistance)."

Savarino also pointed out that the site of the former Santy's Tire Sales and Soccio & Della Penna Construction companies also presents flood hazards, is part of the Brownfield Opportunity Area (which warrants remedial work) and sits on top of what is being called a "grand canal" or tunnel that runs from the corner of Ellicott and Jackson streets right through the Ellicott Station property.

A portion of the canal, which is being utilized by the city, is located directly under where one of Savarino's apartment/retail buildings would be constructed.

On a positive note, he said he has encoutered similar problems in his many years as a developer and is optimistic that engineers will be able to work around this water-filled obstacle.

Savarino added that he has lined up investors and lenders, and hopes to start demolition and construction by this fall, with an eye on being "open for business" in the fall of 2018.

The mixed-use development will consist of a retail brewery/restaurant operated by Resurgence Brewing along with 16,800 square feet of office space and a five-story apartment building.

Savarino said rent for a one-bedroom, top floor corner unit will be around $1,200 per month while a two-bedroom unit with two full bathrooms will go for around $1,600 per month. Each apartment will feature a washer and dryer and a balcony, and the 51-unit building will include a fitness center and ground floor parking.

Pacatte said the BDC is looking at Ellicott Station as its "beacon of hope" for the city's bid to receive a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award (see story below).

"We're using Ellicott Station as the anchor for our DRI proposal, focusing on the quality of life piece -- especially on the south side of the city," she said.

Valle, owner of Valle Jewelers on Jackson Street, said that major improvements on Ellicott Street "will raise the bar for all of us" in regards to building upkeep and maintenance.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center will hold a public hearing at 4 this afternoon to consider financial incentives for the Savarino Companies for the redevelopment of Ellicott Station in downtown Batavia. The public hearing will take place at City Hall.

The approximate 64,000-square-foot development will be a mix use of residential, office and retail spaces; a brewery; small beverage warehouse and hops processing facility; entertainment and event area; outside seating; and integration of the new Ellicott Trail pedestrian pathway.

The $17.6 million project is estimated to create up to 60 good paying full-time jobs.

The proposed incentives include $897,293 in sales tax savings, $128,232 mortgage tax savings and $537,398 in property tax savings. 

The project is being done through the “Batavia Pathway to Prosperity” (BP2) program which was created through an inter-municipal agreement between the City of Batavia, Genesee County, the Batavia City School District, the Batavia Development Corporation and the GCEDC.

BP2 was conceived to pool resources in order to invest in distressed areas in the City of Batavia. The BP2 program will be implemented though PILOT increment financing (PIF), referred to as the “BP2 fund,” which is the first of its kind in New York State where all local taxing jurisdictions are participating. 

Supported by the redirection of 50% of new project PILOT payments, the BP2 fund will play a critical role in generating development within the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), a 366-acre area within the City of Batavia containing five strategic redevelopment sites.

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