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Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park

May 6, 2022 - 4:20pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors advanced 3 projects with proposed investments of more than $31.5 million in Genesee County at its board meeting on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

The GCEDC Board of Directors accepted an initial resolution for La Fermière’s proposed $25 million project to construct a 50,000 sq. ft. yogurt manufacturing facility in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The proposed project adds to Batavia’s Dairy Hub of the Northeast, supporting over 900 direct jobs, over $500 million of capital investment, and over 1 million square feet of dairy processing facilities.

La Fermière has pledged to create up to 68 jobs over the first 3 years of operations in Genesee County.  Founded in France, the company has been active in US markets since 2018.

“We are ready to move to the next step. The next level for us is to make our very first big investment in the US and building a new state of the art facility here,” La Fermière US Vice President Lucas Praticci said in a presentation to the GCEDC Board.

La Fermière plans to produce French yogurt and dairy dessert products using fresh milk and cream at the facility.

“We have a unique product, and we are very proud to bring this culture and our culture here to the US,” Praticci said.

La Fermière is requesting $1.8 million in property, sales, and mortgage tax assistance.  The project is estimated to generate $54.9 million of local economic benefits over 10 years, equal to $43 dollars in economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

A public hearing on the proposed project will be scheduled in the town of Batavia at Batavia Town Hall.

The GCEDC accepted an initial resolution from O-AT-KA Milk Products, LLC for a 3,246 sq. ft. expansion of its existing facility in the town of Batavia.

The proposed $3.5 million investment will house two new 18,000-gallon tanks to increase the capabilities of cream-based liquor beverages. The expansion proposes to create two new jobs.

O-AT-KA Milk Products, LLC is requesting approximately $214,406 in property, sales, and mortgage tax assistance. The project is estimated to generate $3.5 million of local economic benefits over 10 years, equal to $27 dollars in economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

A public hearing on the proposed project will be scheduled in the town of Batavia at Batavia Town Hall.

The GCEDC also approved a final resolution for Apple Tree Acres, LLC. The $3.15 million project will construct a stand-alone 50,000 sq. ft. facility in the Apple Tree Acres business park. Apple Tree Acres, LLC plans to create three new jobs.

Apple Tree Acres, LLC has been granted approximately $490,225 in property, sales, and mortgage tax exemptions. The project is estimated to generate $2.8 million in economic activity, equal to $6 of economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

May 2, 2022 - 4:57pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors will consider three projects proposing approximately $31.6 million of financial investments in Genesee County at its board meeting on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

The GCEDC Board of Directors will consider an initial resolution for La Fermière’s proposed $25 million investment. La Fermière plans to construct a 50,000 sq. ft. yogurt manufacturing facility in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The proposed project adds to Batavia’s Dairy Hub of the Northeast, which supports over 900 direct jobs, over $500 million of capital investment, and over 1 million square feet of dairy processing facilities.

La Fermière has pledged to create up to 68 jobs over the first 3 years of operations in Genesee County.  Founded in France, the company has been active in US markets since 2018.

La Fermière is requesting $1.8 million in property, sales, and mortgage tax assistance.  The project is estimated to generate $54.9 million of local economic benefits over 10 years, equal to $43 dollars in economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

If the project application is accepted, a public hearing for the proposed agreement will be scheduled in the town of Batavia.

The GCEDC will also consider an initial resolution from O-AT-KA Milk Products, LLC regarding a 3,246 sq. ft. expansion of its existing facility in the town of Batavia.

The proposed $3.5 million investment will house two new 18,000-gallon tanks to increase the capabilities of cream-based liquor beverages. The expansion would create two new jobs.

O-AT-KA Milk Products, LLC has requested approximately $214,406 in property, sales, and mortgage tax. The project is estimated to generate $3.5 million of local economic benefits over 10 years, equal to $27 dollars in economic activity for every $1 of public investment.

If the project application is accepted, a public hearing for the proposed agreement will be scheduled in the town of Batavia.

The GCEDC will also consider a final resolution for Apple Tree Acres, LLC. The $3.15 million project includes construction of a stand-alone 50,000 sq. ft. facility in the Apple Tree Acres business park. Apple Tree Acres, LLC proposes to create 3 new jobs.

Apple Tree Acres, LLC is requesting approximately $490,225 in property, sales, and mortgage tax exemptions. The project is estimated to generate $2.8 million in economic activity, equal to $6 of economic activity for every $1 of public investment. A public hearing on the proposed agreement was held on Feb. 2 in the town of Bergen.

March 16, 2022 - 11:32am

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that La Fermière, a family-owned French yogurt and desserts company, will establish its U.S. production operations in New York State. The company has committed to constructing a 45,000 square-foot yogurt and dairy desserts production facility at Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia, with plans for future, additional expansion. As a result, La Fermière, expects to create up to 135 New Jobs in the region. Additionally, the company will utilize millions of pounds of milk provided by New York dairy farmers to create its globally renowned dairy products. Agribusiness is a core pillar of the locally designed Finger Lakes Forward plan, a comprehensive plan that is working to revitalize and grow the regional economy.

"We’re proud to welcome La Fermière to Genesee County, bringing jobs and opportunity to the Finger Lakes region,” Governor Hochul said. “This investment shows that our bold economic recovery plan for the Finger Lakes is working, attracting new businesses and helping communities across the region grow and thrive."

Empire State Development is assisting this project with up to $1.35 million​ in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Tax Credits in exchange for job creation commitments. Genesee County, Greater Rochester Enterprise, and Invest Buffalo Niagara are providing support for the company’s growth in New York State. The total project cost has been placed at $25.8 million dollars. The company expects to be operational at the site by November of 2023.

Located in the Town of Batavia, Genesee County, the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park was developed as the largest food and beverage greenfield in the northeastern U.S. to connect the region’s agricultural production, talent and transportation networks. The 250-acre Ag Park and the surrounding area has become the Dairy Processing Hub of the Northeast, with more than 1 million square-feet of operations and approximately 1,000 workers employed across multiple production and supply chain companies.

Founded in Marseille, France in 1952, the company was purchased by Groupe Tarpinian in 2002. In the mid to late 2010s, La Fermière began working with a New York state-based co-packer in an effort to bring its sustainably packaged French yogurt to the U.S. market. The company had considered site locations throughout the country for its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility but selected New York, thanks to the focused support from both the State and its regional economic development partners. 

La Fermière President and CEO Jean-Jacques Tarpinian, said, “We are very excited to launch this project of building our very first yogurt and dessert production facility in Batavia, New York. The great support of the state and GCEDC team really helped us in our decision. The Batavia site meets our main requirements for success: quality milk and large cream supply, logistics hub and workforce availability. Being close to local farmers, at the heart of milk production, was key for us, as we will use up to 6 million gallons of milk every year. Our five-year presence in the U.S. market expanded beyond our expectations. This state-of-the-art facility will help us achieve our very ambitious goal in the U.S. market, which offers large opportunities by manufacturing the best all natural yogurts and desserts, with innovative recipes and process.” 

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Hope Knight said, “La Fermière’s new plant in Batavia will boost farmers, add great-paying local jobs that will support the dairy industry’s continued growth and success, and further strengthen the region’s agricultural base. The company’s decision to establish its production facility here is further proof that New York State is an agribusiness leader.”

Steven G. Hyde, President and Chief Executive Officer for Genesee County Economic Development Center said, “La Fermière’s decision to locate their U.S. operations in Genesee County demonstrates that investing in shovel-ready sites like the Genesee Valley Agribusiness Park draws great companies to New York. We are excited to work with La Fermière to see this project to succeed as we continue to grow our food and beverage-manufacturing workforce. Thanks to Governor Hochul’s leadership, businesses are finding the right sites and ready communities in New York for their growth.” 

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We are proud to welcome La Fermière to New York State as they expand their business in Genesee County, a major win for dairy in New York State. By choosing New York, La Fermière has highlighted the strength and diversity of our state’s dairy industry, which continues to attract new businesses and produce delicious, world-class dairy products for all to enjoy. Having La Fermière’s U.S. production facility located in New York will create new jobs and increase demand for New York dairy farmers’ milk, which is certainly a win-win for our dairy farmers and our communities. We look forward to partnering with La Fermière as they put down roots here and look forward to the continued success and expansion of the Genesee Valley Agribusiness Park.” 

Senator Edward A. Rath III said, "Creating jobs in our community is critical.  Our economy has struggled during the pandemic, creating new opportunities will help with revitalization. I commend La Fermière for bringing their production to Genesee County and I congratulate Batavia on this great opportunity." 

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said, “The arrival of La Fermière into the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia is another sign that our region is truly a burgeoning agri-business hotspot within New York State. The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park’s ability to enable manufacturers to make use of our high quality, local dairy has helped springboard our rural economy into the next generation, getting more of our farmer’s product into grocery stores nationwide and providing jobs to our highly skilled workforce. It’s been an incredible asset to the development of our rural economy, and its success is a testament to the quality of what our farmers are able to offer to companies seeking to produce specialty products at a massive scale.”

Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein said, “Thank you to Governor Hochul for guiding La Fermière to Genesee County and building another opportunity for great careers for our youth. La Fermière and recent investments by O-AT-KA Milk Products, Dairy Farmers of America, HP Hood, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, and Yancey’s Fancy show that Genesee County is the ideal place for dairy processing growth. These investments have a tremendous positive impact for our farm families, highly skilled and dedicated farmworkers, robust agricultural economy, and welcoming communities.”

Town Supervisor Greg Post said, “The Town of Batavia is pleased to welcome another investment into our agri-business economy. La Fermiere’s high-quality products and operations are a great fit with our community’s hub of dairy processing, robust workforce training, and commitment to supporting business growth.” 

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair​s Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and Denise Battles, President SUNY Geneseo said, “The dairy industry is a major driver of the local economy. This is tremendous news for Genesee County and for the region as a whole. We want to thank La Fermière for choosing to make this significant investment at the thriving Ag-Park as this project will create solid employment opportunities and, at the same time, support the robust dairy farming industry that is available throughout the Finger Lakes region.”

June 17, 2021 - 10:06am

The third time apparently wasn’t the charm for the Batavia Town Board in its quest to receive visual screening projections from Batavia Solar LLC for a ground-mounted, 1.65-megawatt solar systems on vacant land owned by the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. at 99 Med Tech Drive.

The issue has delayed the project, which will be located off R. Stephen Hawley Drive across from Genesee Community College, for several months as planners have requested – thus far unsuccessfully – for the developer to provide projection pictures of the screening around the solar panels.

Planners, at their Tuesday night meeting, took the referral off the table, thinking they would be ruling on a special use permit. But after a discussion about the visuals, they voted to place it back on the table.

The planning board maintains that one-, five- and 10-year simulations of how the property will look with adequate screenings are necessary to ensure the system is out of sight from the neighboring property of Robert and Michelle Wood.

Planning Board Chair Kathleen Jasinski informed the board Tuesday that officials of the Genesee County Economic Development Center contacted her and indicated that the Woods “were agreeable to the (proposed) screening and they wondered if we could deal with this without doing the projection pictures.”

Planner Don Partridge said that he also talked to the couple.

“I feel we can get along without it (projection photos),” Partridge said. “(If)) they do a double row of pine trees there, I think that will be sufficient.”

His colleagues had different ideas, however.

Steven Tanner said he wanted to see how it would look, not only from Hawley Drive, but from other roads in the vicinity, and Jon Long agreed.

“We’ve requested it a couple times so I don’t think it’s that big of a cost to the project,” Long said. “And then we have it on file if there are any problems down the road.”

Paul McCullough said it would set “a dangerous precedent” by not obtaining the documentation, prompting Jeremy Liles to agree, before Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said he didn’t think it would be “appropriate to make exceptions.”

“I would remain consistent with everything we’ve done with every other solar. I suggest that we do require them to show us the actual detail,” Lang said.

As a result, a consensus to get the visualizations was reached, and all members, except Partridge, voted to put the referral back on the table once again.

Rising Water Levels at Ag Park

In another development, planners voted to adopt an amended version of the generic environmental impact statement for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road in light of an increase in the daily amount of water being used at the facility.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain reported that the current water usage at the park, which is the home of HP Hood, has moved past the original 614,000 gallons per day threshold and that future projections put the usage at 1.8 million gallons per day.

“This is the first project that exceeded the original threshold in the generic environmental impact statement … by a significant amount,” Mountain said.

The project to which he was referring to is HP Hood’s installation of a 16-inch water main from the town line on Route 5 down to the Ag Park Drive entrance that will cross the road and tie into the park.

“That will be a direct connection to the Monroe County Water Authority water source,” Mountain said. “To date, all of the water has come directly out of the city on East Main and Cedar Street.”

Mountain said the reason for the change is “water chemistry.”

“The water authority water is very low in chlorides (low levels of chlorides prevent corrosion) and you can imagine how many pipes there are in the HP Hood facility. That will alleviate a lot of the corrosion issues that they’re having,” he explained.

While that will provide additional volume for the future, HP Hood also is building a new storage tank, which it will own. Mountain said the 16-inch water main will be dedicated to the Town of Batavia.

Mountain said the 1.8 million gallons per day level is the new threshold that is under consideration, adding that letters were sent out to involved agencies and businesses. He also noted that O-At-Ka Milk Products wishes to be included in the mix for more water.

He then advised planners it was up to them to determine whether they think it is a significant impact or a negative or minor impact (negative declaration). The board then voted to adopt a revision of the original finding statements for the Agri-Business Park as it pertains to the expanded water threshold.

February 7, 2020 - 12:15pm

Press release:

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) Board of Directors approved the sale of 28 acres of land parcels in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park at its Feb. 6 board meeting.

HP Hood is purchasing 22 acres and Upstate Niagara Cooperative is purchasing six acres. Both companies have plans to grow and expand their businesses in the Ag Park over the next several years. 

HP Hood and Upstate Niagara Cooperative are part of a food and beverage manufacturing hub that has invested more than $500 million into a food and beverage manufacturing hub that including the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has more than 1 million square feet of facilities and more than 700 workers.

With the sale of the 28 acres, there are approximately 80 acres remaining in the Ag Park, including a 30-acre site with direct railroad access and a retail-friendly parcel at the park’s entrance on Route 5.

August 22, 2019 - 6:23am

Over the years, Town of Batavia leaders have overseen significant economic development in their municipality and, with that, have had to add professional staff to handle all of the negotiations, inspections, engineering studies and paperwork that comes with it.

On Wednesday night, the Town Board -- realizing that its employees are in need of more space to perform their jobs in a most efficient manner -- voted to contract with a Batavia design firm to provide a floor plan and elevations for a building that would connect Town Hall to the adjacent Town Highway garage at 3833 W. Main Street Road.

“We’ve been looking at this since 2012; even back then we knew we were short of space,” said Town Supervisor Gregory Post following the meeting. “We have three times the staff that we had when the building was constructed (2001-2002) … and now we’re left with a situation where seven employees are working in a room not much bigger than my living room.”

Post said he is expecting to receive renderings from Design & Drafting by Gina LLC, of Seven Springs Road as part of the contract, which calls for the town to pay the firm $60 per hour up to a maximum of $2,500.

He explained that the current building was supposed to have a full basement – which didn’t happen – and “lost 50 percent of its anticipated floor space during construction.”

“This is turning out to be a different concept than originally thought of (a freestanding addition), but we realized that our efficiencies could be enhanced by connecting Town Hall with the highway garage,” he said. “We will save in energy costs and create new office space within the connecting building.”

In other action, the board:

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Town Hall to consider the establishment and construction of a proposed Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park Sewer Improvement Area on East Main Street Road and the vicinity.

Post said that if the sewer improvement area comes to pass, rates would be established fairly by usage, with businesses in the Agri-Business Park (such as HP Hood and Upstate Milk) along with residents within its boundaries sharing in the costs.

The resolution states that the engineering firm of Clark Patterson Lee has already prepared a preliminary map, plan and report for the project, which calls for the installation of larger sanitary sewer pumps, electrical upgrades, installation of a new generator and other improvements.

The Town plans to pay the $400,000 project cost by the issuance of serial bonds -- offset by any federal, state, county and/or local funds received.

-- Voted to pay an additional $37,626 to Keeler Construction for unanticipated work during the construction of a new pedestrian bridge over the Tonawanda Creek as part of the Ellicott Trail Project.

According to the resolution, it was discovered that driving steel piles for the bridge abutment would have required temporary relocation of the overhead electric lines at an estimated cost of approximately $90,000, according to National Grid.

Keeler, to avoid this charge, revised the design to allow the use of drilled king piles to support the bridge at the reduced cost.

Post said work continues on Ellicott Trail, which is expected to open by the end of October.

-- Reappointed Rhonda Saulsbury as the Town Assessor for another six-year term, beginning Oct. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2025.

April 17, 2019 - 4:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, news, business, batavia, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

Upstate Niagara Cooperative announced today that they have completed their acquisition of a yogurt plant located at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia.

The Western New York-based dairy cooperative had signed a purchase agreement on Feb. 28th to buy the facility from Climb Your Mountain Inc. in a transaction facilitated by Harry Davis & Company.

“We’re very excited to have finalized our purchase of this manufacturing plant in Batavia,” said Larry Webster, CEO of Upstate Niagara Cooperative. “As a dairy cooperative owned by farm families throughout the region, this acquisition is located central to our member milk supply. 

"This production-ready facility is only a few years old and represents an investment by our member-owners towards continued and long-term growth for our cooperative. We look forward to adding manufacturing jobs within the Genesee County community while offering additional products and manufacturing capabilities to our customers.”

Exact plans regarding when the plant will reopen and what products will be manufactured at the facility have yet to be announced.

The Upstate Niagara Cooperative is continuing to work with the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) on this project. In the last decade, dairy products manufacturing companies have invested more than $500 million into facilities in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and Genesee County has more than 1,500 acres of shovel-ready sites to accommodate additional growth in the dairy, food and beverage industry.

“The Genesee County Economic Development Center is pleased that the Upstate Niagara Cooperative is strengthening their investment into producing excellent products and great careers at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC.

“With our tradition of agriculture and strong farm families, as well as our infrastructure assets, shovel-ready sites, and workforce talent, Genesee County is truly a dairy, food and beverage powerhouse.”

The Upstate Niagara Cooperative and its members were recognized earlier this year by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce as their 2019 Agricultural Organization of the Year.

March 17, 2019 - 2:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, batavia, news, outdoors.

20190317_074843eagle.jpg

Frank Capuano took this picture of an eagle he spotted this morning feasting on a carcass in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

July 15, 2017 - 9:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in HP Hood, batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Public Notice:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the Genesee County Legislature will hold a public hearing on the submission of an application for Community Development Block Grant funding from the New York State Office of Community Renewal to provide financing to assist in the establishment of milk processing operations at the former Muller Quaker Dairy facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in the Town of Batavia, New York by HP Hood LLC.  More detailed information regarding the project will be presented at the hearing.

NOTICE IS FURTHER GIVEN that the public hearing will be held at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main Street, Batavia, NY on the 19th day of July, 2017 at 5:30 PM. All persons who wish to speak will be heard. Written comments are invited and will be accepted upon delivery to: Clerk, Genesee County Legislature, 7 Main Street, Batavia, NY 14020 prior to the hearing. The hearing location is in compliance with accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

June 9, 2017 - 4:45pm

One of New England's largest dairy producers, HP Hood, with an increasing reach into New York, is acquiring the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia.

The plant has been vacant, except for a few maintenance workers, since Theo Muller Group and PepsiCo dissolved their yogurt-making partnership in December 2015. A month later, Dairy Farmers of America, a dairy farmers cooperative, purchased the 363,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art milk processing facility for $60 million.

Since then, DFA has been mum about its plans for the plant, and for 2017, the company wound up paying all of the property taxes due on the two parcels, more than $650,000, because they were not meeting the employment obligations of the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement Muller Quaker received for the project.

Rumors have started circulating weeks ago that DFA planned to sell the plant to a large dairy producer.

Public documents released by the Genesee County Economic Development Center in advance of a meeting next week where new tax incentives will be considered indicate that Hood is the buyer. It is a 170-year-old company that does more than $2 billion in business annually, and is based in Lynnfield, Mass..

Hood is a subsidiary of Catamount Companies. The owner and CEO is John A. Kaneb, who is also a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox.

News of Hood's purchase is good news to local dairy farmers. Both Shelly Stein of Stein Farms and Dean Norton, former NY Farm Bureau president and owner of a dairy farm in Elba, said anything that creates more demand for local milk helps all farmers.

"Anything that can go into that plant and help with the oversupply of raw milk that we have in the Northeast right now, that would be good," Norton said.

Norton said he has met Kaneb a couple of times.

"He's a good guy and it's a pretty solid company," Norton said.

Bill Baskin, owner of Baskin Livestock in Bethany, got his start in the dairy business in Massachusetts, so he is very familiar with Hood and said it's a good, old, old, old company with deep roots in Boston.

The funny story, he said, is that his great uncles had a 700- or 800-cow dairy farm back in the 1940s and they didn't like the price they were getting from Hood for milk, so they started their own bottling plant, which years later they sold.

Both Stein and Norton are DFA members. Norton said he doesn't know, but he would expect that DFA will become the supplier of milk for Hood's operations.

Monica Massey, senior vice president and chief of staff for DFA, said she could not confirm the transaction with Hood.

"We are getting close to finalizing an agreement," she said.

Massey said DFA acquired the plant as a "strategic opportunity" because the region is an important and underserved milk shed.

Asked if DFA would supply milk to Hood, Massey said, "We acquired the facility because we thought it would benefit our member-owners." That is still the goal, she added.

Hood's purchase price for the former Muller Quaker plant has not been released, but GCEDC documents indicate that Hood plans to add another 100,000 square feet to the plant, which is already considered the largest in the United States, for a warehouse.

How much that additional investment will cost is not disclosed in the documents.

While Muller Quaker topped out at 162 jobs created, Hood promises 250 jobs at the plant, with an average annual salary of $47,000.

Hood plans to begin construction this summer and be operational by the first quarter of 2019.

Construction will create 524 jobs with a payroll of nearly $26 million.

The original cost of construction for the plant was $206 million, which is the cost of capital investment still tracked by GCEDC for its accounting purposes.

The GCEDC board will be asked to consider reinstating the PILOT, which will provide Hood with more than $7 million in tax abatements over 10 years, with an anticipated total economic benefit to the region of more than $330 million.

Hood has been expanding into New York and other parts of the United States over the past few years. In 2004, the company acquired Crowley Foods, based in Binghamton. It's also acquired dairy companies in Minnesota and Sacramento, Calif.

Eric Zuber, a local dairy farmer and VP of Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative, said he hasn't heard what Hood plans to do with the plant, but like Stein and Norton, he believes anything that will "soak up some of the milk supply" is a good thing.

"There sure is a lot of milk around right now," he said. "A little more capacity with the right thing is a good thing. We need more processing capacity. I don't care where it comes from."

Hood and Kaneb, he said, have a good reputation in the dairy industry.

"He’s done a fantastic job with (Hood)," Zuber said. "They know how to manage a milk plant. Whatever they decided to do, I'm sure it's going to be first class."

May 19, 2017 - 1:00pm

There should be no lack of motivation for Dairy Farmers of America to start production back up at the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in Batavia it acquired in January 2016 for $60 million.

That was a big outlay on a plant that is considered state-of-the-art, is USDA certified, close to milk supplies, in the midst of a transportation hub, and cost PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group more than $200 million to construct.

There is also more milk being produced than there are places to process it in the Northeast and that has led to some milk dumping so it doesn't get added to the market supply.

Finally, there is the whopping $655,155 tax bill DFA paid in 2017 over and above what their obligation could have been with a new PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreement, which is wholly contingent on Kansas City, Kansas-based DFA putting the plant to productive use.

Genesee County Economic Development Center CEO Steve Hyde notified officials with City Schools, Genesee County and the Town of Batavia in January that those jurisdictions could expect suspension of the PILOT agreement Muller Quaker received to build the plant because there was no clear indication what DFA planned to do to live up the basic premise of the PILOT, which is that there would be people working at the plant.

"They will pay full taxes until it's back in productive use and people are back to work," Hyde told The Batavian. "DFA has been good with us and good to work with, but we want to see the plant back in productive use, and they want their members to be able to ship milk to that plant."

The Batavian obtained copies of the letters sent to local officials through a FOIL (Freedom of Infomation Act letter) request. The letters show that City Schools received an extra $427,397, the county received $180,476, and the Town received $47,282.

Hyde said the payment requirement was consistent with the original terms of the PILOT and would not have come as a surprise to DFA.

As for DFA's plans, spokeswoman Kim O'Brien said the plans are taking shape. It's a lot of work to bring a number of big players together to get a plant like this back into production, but she said DFA would announce its plans within weeks.

It's unclear if DFA will operate the plant itself, partner with other companies, lease it or sell it, and O'Brien said she couldn't comment beyond acknowledging that DFA would make an announcement soon.

There are reportedly other major players in the dairy industry interested in the plant and Shelly Stein, a co-owner of Stein Farms in Le Roy, a DFA member, said it's common knowledge that DFA has had the plant on the market, but she also doesn't know what DFA's plans are. She said she's just eager to see it processing milk again to help alleviate the oversupply problem for dairy farmers.

"In the dairy business, there are a lot of partnerships and relationships that go into running plants like this, and that's the model DFA uses," Stein said. "I believe that is still the thought process and as a member of the cooperative, I look forward to that plant being up and running, but at this point, all of the stars have to line up. The size of that plant means it's not going to be an overnight fix."

Sarah Noble Moag, of Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, and also a DFA member, said they are eager to see the plant reopen, but they also understand why it's taking so long to get something going.

"After having seen Muller Quaker come in with its business plan and fail, we want to see something for our local economy and our local jobs that is more stable, and if that takes a little more time to plan, then so be it," Noble Moag said. "We all know in this business how long those negotiations can take, especially for an asset that size."

According to documents obtained by The Batavian as part of a FOIL request, there was active communication between GCEDC and DFA, but in July, the communication, at least the written communication, abruptly stopped. We are told that's an accurate reflection of the state of things from that point forward, that there isn't any communication not part of the response to the FOIL request.

In February of 2016, DFA officials were diligent about making sure its logo was added to the business part sign along Route 5. In March, Chris Suozzi, VP of business development, started trying to find out from DFA officials what their plans were so he could put together a new incentive package that recognized the expense of the retooling of the plant.

Jackie Klippenstein, with DFA, asked for clarification on possible incentives on April 28, telling Suozzi, "it appears discussions at the end of the hall are intensifying."

In response, Suozzi wanted to know how much DFA was planning to invest in the plant. 

The number he got back was $250,000 for equipment and $100,000, rough estimate, for labor.

On April 29, 2016, he emailed Jackie Klippenstein to try and clarify DFA's plans.

"Based on other food processing facilities in our county, that number appears low, unless you're making yogurt," Suozzi wrote. "Can you share what products will be produced? Maybe I can understand better. Will you be using existing equipment from Muller Quaker Dairy? Do you already own equipment that you're bringing in? If so we will need to understand the capital expense."

He also asked, "is the 150 jobs to start or is a ramp-up schedule over the course of time (i.e. 2-year ramp up)?"

Suozzi apparently didn't get a response and followed up on May 3 and suggested a phone call.

Klippenstein responded May 10 and said, "We aren't quite ready -- but I expect information in the next 2-3 weeks. Stop and go, stop and go ... sorry but feeling optimistic."

Suozzi again followed up on June 1, 2016, and Klippenstein responded, "Thanks for checking in. I've been told July is the golden month when things will start to come together -- decisions made."

On July 6, 2016, Suozzi again requested a project update and the documents obtained by The Batavian, which we are told are complete, contains no response from Klippenstein or anybody else from DFA.

As part of the documents obtained by The Batavian, there is a state form DFA was required to fill out which lists employees and wages paid for 2016. The NYS-45-ATT shows DFA had seven employees at the plant with a total payroll of $408,006. The names of the employees are redacted, but the top gross pay was $72,195, with one other employee earning more than $70,000, two making more than $50,000, one making $41,883, and three earning at least $35,000. Their job duties are not listed as part of the form.

Hyde, like other officials we've talked to around the county, remains optimistic that the plant, so big, so well situated and well suited to dairy processing, will eventually be put to productive use. It's just a matter of time.

"It's not perfect what happened, but we have a couple hundred million dollar processing plant that is essentially new and largely funded on the backs of PepsiCo and Theo Muller," Hyde said. "We'll eventually have a production facility in there. It's a great asset to have in our community."

Stein, who is also a county legislator, agreed.

"It’s an asset that continues that get a lot of traction," Stein said. "I’m glad it’s in DFA’s hands. It’s the largest dairy cooperative in the nation. As a member, when a deal is worked out, whomever or whatever it’s going to be, it's going to be good for all milk producers in the area one way or another because it’s still milk."

May 6, 2016 - 9:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alpina, business, batavia, gcdec, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved a final resolution for an application for assistance from Alpina Foods, Inc., at its May 5 board meeting.

Alpina Foods, Inc., will add 3,200 square feet to its existing facility in the Town of Batavia to accommodate space for a bottle-filling machine and packaging equipment for a new drinkable yogurt product.

The facility’s expansion will result in the creation of four new jobs and the retention of 23 current full-time employees. Based on the success of the product line and other growth opportunities there is the potential for the creation of additional new jobs at Alpina.

The company was approved for a sales tax exemption of $15,405 and a property tax exemption of $62,903. The project’s planned capital investment will total an estimated $1.1 million.

“It is exciting to see Alpina adding a new yogurt product to the marketplace that is being made right here in Genesee County,” said Christopher Suozzi, vice president of Business Development at the GCEDC.

“The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is an important community asset and continued investment and expansion there will only help us market the site to other food processing and food manufacturing companies.”

May 3, 2016 - 8:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, news, Alpina, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider an expansion project for Alpina Foods, Inc., at its May 5 board meeting.

Alpina Foods, Inc., is planning to construct a 3,200-square-foot addition to its existing facility in Batavia to accommodate space for a new bottle-filling machine and packaging equipment for a new drinkable yogurt product.

The company’s investment will total more than $1.1 million in the drinkable yogurt line, resulting in the retention of 23 current full-time employees.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Innovation Zone Conference Room at MedTech Centre -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the first floor, across from Genesee Community College.

January 15, 2016 - 11:07am

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) at its Jan. 14 board meeting authorized the transfer of a PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreement to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) as a result of the sale of the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in Batavia. The PILOT agreement will be in effect for the remainder of 2016.

A key provision of the PILOT that will be transferred to DFA is a $300,000 payment from DFA for water and waste water/sewer infrastructure sustainability to the town of Batavia and the assumption of fire district fees.

“We are extremely pleased that Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to purchase the manufacturing facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park,” said Paul Battaglia, chairman of the Board of Directors of the GCEDC. “I think it shows that DFA is a company with a great deal of integrity as well as a commitment to our community.”

“This is another great example of how all of our public and private partners in the economic growth and sustainability model we embraced over the last 10 years continue to excel in making sure our taxpayers and water/sewer customers are well served and able to rely on stable rates in the face of unpredictable events,” said Gregory H. Post, supervisor of the Town of Batavia.

“The efforts made on behalf of the Town of Batavia and the region by Steve Hyde and the staff at GCEDC and the extraordinary investment in our Town by DFA during the transfer of PILOT agreement allow us to continue to offer and provide the infrastructure and support necessary to efficiently serve our community’s ever growing needs. We stand ready, willing and able to assist the new owners and offer thanks to all involved in this negotiation.”

It is expected that within the next few months that DFA will present its plans for operating the manufacturing facility and submit its own application for assistance at the appropriate time.

“We expect many, if not all of the jobs lost from the plant’s closure last month to be restored, but that is going to take some time as DFA prepares its plans,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC. “We remain committed to assisting the DFA in this transition to ensure the plant will continue operations as one of the region’s largest agricultural food production facilities, as well as serve as a major economic driver in the region.”

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national dairy marketing cooperative that serves and is owned by more than 14,000 members on more than 8,000 farms in 48 states. DFA is also one of the county’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients and is a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products.

December 10, 2015 - 3:53pm

Muller Quaker Dairy apparently announced the closing of its Batavia yogurt plant today.  We have not been able to confirm that announcement with the spokeswomen for Muller Quaker.

GCEDC issued this statement a few minutes ago.

“While we are extremely disappointed about today’s announcement by Mueller Quaker Dairy, we are optimistic that the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will continue to play a key role in the agricultural sector in our region, including remaining a major employer.

“The Genesee Agri-Business Park where the facility is located is a community asset and it continues our strategy of building and marketing sites targeting industry clusters. 

“Regardless of this announcement, we will continue to enhance the infrastructure at the Ag-Park in our efforts to bring new jobs and investment to Genesee County in the agricultural sector.

“Our immediate focus in the meantime is to do everything we can to assist the impacted employees.”

May 15, 2015 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, GCEDC, business, batavia.

gcplanningboardmay142015-3.jpg

The backers of a proposed bio-gas plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park are in the early stages of site planning and they hope, if all goes to plan, to be operational in a year.

The plan was presented for review Thursday night to the Genesee County Planning Board and the board unanimously recommended approval at this stage of the process.

The plant would take organic waste from food processing plants -- primarily the two yogurt plants in the ag park -- and convert it into methane to generate heat that could be resold to the plants and electricity that the plants could also purchase.

The plant would generate more electricity than the plants could use -- enough to power 800 homes a day -- so additional capacity would be transferred into the electrical grid.

The plant, said architect Robert Keiffer, of TY Lin International, Rochester, is environmentally friendly, would help make the yogurt plants more sustainable and more efficient to operate, and help attract business to the ag park.

The owners of the plant would be CH4 Biogas, which already operates a plant in Covington.

CH4 has a purchase agreement with Genesee County Economic Development Center for five acres in the ag park. The project would be eligible for economic incentives from GCEDC.

The proposed facility would be 8,500 square feet, housing processing equipment, an office, bathroom, dock area and de-packaging area.

The waste accepted by the facility would be organic and non-hazardous. The waste would go through a methane-capture process, pumped into a grinder and put into a receiving tank.

The waste is then pasteurized in three 15-foot-high tanks. This optimizes methane release. Next, the waste is moved to digester tanks that are completely enclosed. Methane is collected and stored in another tank. It is then converted into electricity by a CHP engine. The engine is not located on site, but at the thermal end-user's location and enclosed to reduce noise.

The organic waste, if not sent to a digester plant, could be used on farm fields or simply taken to a dump. In either case, the methane eventually released by the waste would drift into the atmosphere. Methane is considered a greenhouse gas. This process captures 100 percent of the methane from the waste and converts it to electricity.

December 11, 2014 - 11:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The Cuomo administration is handing out more than $1.8 million in grants to Genesee County projects, officials announced today.

The awards are part of $80.7 million in grants for the Finger Lakes Region of Empire State Development.

The largest award locally -- $1.5 million -- is going to Genesee Biogas, a Warsaw-based company looking to build a biogas generator in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Sen. Charles Schumer issued the following statement about the award:

“I was pleased to help make Ch4 Biogas’ first on-farm biodigester at the Synergy Dairy in Wyoming County a reality back in 2011, and I was pleased this year to support their application to ESD to replicate that success with the new Biogas Plant in Batavia. This cutting-edge facility is a win, win, win: it will provide renewable energy to the Ag Park, home to companies like Muller Quaker and Alpina yogurt, reduce the need to send waste to landfills, and help attract new businesses to locate to the Ag Park.” 

Previously: Company pitches idea of plant that converts food waste into energy at planning board meeting

The City of Batavia is also receiving two awards. There is $200,000 for a micro-enterprise fund. The money is to be awarded to 10 local businesses, five of which must be owned by low- to moderate-income people. The program is expected to create 10 new full-time equivalent jobs.

The city is also receiving $75,000 to draft a new comprehensive plan. 

"The plan will include public participation, an assessment of existing conditions and the development of goals and objectives based on LEED for Neighbhorhood Development," states the award announcement. "This project will promote the goals of the Finger Lakes Regional Sustainability Plan and serve as a model for other rural cities."

The Town of Batavia will receive $30,000 for eastside sewer planning.

The Village of Alexander will receive $30,000 for wastewater infrastructure evaluation.

The Village of Bergen will receive $30,000 for collection system study.

All of the projects are meant to spur economic growth.

In 2011, the Cuomo administration established 10 regional economic development areas. The 10 areas compete with each other for funding each year.

The largest chunk of funding this year went to the Southern Tier, which is receiving $80.8 million.

Western New York, which includes Buffalo, but not Batavia, received more than $50 million.

State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle issued the following statement:

"The $80.7 million in funding awarded today will move us closer to our goal of securing a brighter economic future for Rochester and all of the Finger Lakes Region by creating thousands of new jobs and leveraging hundreds of millions in new investments."

October 14, 2014 - 9:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Alpina.

Alpina Foods today informed 32 employees that their services will no longer be needed.

Each employee received a letter that blamed the layoffs on the cancellation of a contract by a "principle customer" on Oct. 10.

The letter informs employees they are being terminated effective Oct. 19 and tells them they will receive all earned wages and benefits and will be eligible through the Department of Labor for benefits, job training and job search assistance.

The Batavian received a copy of the termination letter from a source and requested confirmation of the layoffs from Alpina.

The following response was attributed to Gustavo Badino, U.S. general manager for Alpina Foods:

Alpina Foods confirms that the company will be reducing the workforce at its Western New York yogurt plant in October, in response to the early termination of one of our principle contracts.

Alpina Foods remains committed to Batavia and Western New York and views this current workforce reduction as a temporary but necessary approach to address mediate business challenges facing the company in the short term.

May 7, 2014 - 9:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

A company with roots in New York, but currently based in Connecticut, is looking to build a plant at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park that would convert food industry waste into heat and electricity.

"We make green power out of organic waste," said Paul Toretta, CEO of CH4 Biogas, while presenting his company's plans to the Town of Batavia Planning Board. "Once the digester does its thing, it captures methane and powers an engine that makes green power and puts it on the grid. The engine produces heat that can be used to heat Quaker Muller and Alpina, helping them cut their heating bill."

The cost of the plant is $15 million and CH4 has already secured a $2 million Cleaner and Greener grant from NYSERDA to help fund the project, but is looking to the state for more help.

Toretta said state officials recommended the company present its proposal to the town planning board because the state wouldn't get behind the idea unless it has community support. The state backing would help the company secure bank loans to completely finance the project.

"We're in a holding pattern while looking for help with funding," Toretta said when asked about the timetable for the project.

Once funding is in place, the plant would take nine months to build. The design is already completed because it's the same design used by the company for plants in Wyoming County and Ohio (for Campbell's Soup).

"We only build one plant," Toretta said. "It's the same plant over and over again."

CH4 would use local contractors to build and maintain the plant, which would eventually employ eight people full time, Toretta said.

"When you put that much concrete and steel in the ground there will be a number of people employed," Toretta said.

The plant would be expected to last at least 30 years.

"The project is upfront capital intensive," said Toretta, who is originally from Potsdam. "It takes 15 years to return the money invested to do this. It's a slow, steady project. You borrow money and it takes 15 years to make any return."

CH4 already processes whey and other waste from the Alpina and Quaker Muller (no whey comes out of the Muller plant) in Wyoming County.

A plant in the ag park would reduce transportation cost and the impact on the environment to truck it more than 20 miles away.

The plant would also help the Genesee County Economic Development Center attract more food processors to the ag park, Toretta said.

Chris Suozzi, GCEDC's VP for business development, agreed.

"It would complement what we're already doing," Suozzi said. "It would definately help with the marketing when you have a green ag park. What better way to market the park and bring in more companies?"

The plant would be set up so it could take any sort of organic food waste, including waste from products that were already packaged but were found to be defective in some way so couldn't be shipped to customers. Toretta said the plant could separate the food waste from the packaging and then recycle the plastic or metal containers.

The plant would produce very little waste itself, but what it did produce would go into the local sewer system, but with much less biological chemicals and suspended salts than could otherwise go into the waste stream.

The plant would also produce little in the way of odor, which is important to Alpina and Quaker Muller because the plant would be upwind from those facilities.

"If there was any type of odor, as you can imagine, Campbell Soup would not allow us to operate our plant there," Toretta said.

April 16, 2014 - 11:08am

Press release:

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) has been approved for a grant up to $130,000 from National Grid that will be used to continue the development of the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park (GVAB). The Agri-Business Park is home to Alpina Foods, LLC, and Muller Quaker Dairy, LLC.

The GGLDC, the real estate affiliate of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), recently acquired 37 acres of land adjacent to the Agri-Business Park. The grant from National Grid will be used to extend the current electrical distribution line along the newly constructed access road, as well as the engineering and design of the extension of the road, water and sewer lines.

The approximate $600,000 project is being funded by the GGLDC and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Agency and is expected to create approximately 100 construction jobs.

“National Grid continues to be a phenomenal partner in our economic development efforts in Genesee County and you have to look no further than to the continued growth of Agri-Park to see the return on investment of the various grants the company has provided through the years,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC.

“Genesee County continues to be a model for how to do economic development in New York State,” said National Grid Regional Executive Dennis Elsenbeck. “We are confident that the job creation and capital investment made to date in the Agri-Business Park will continue to occur as Steve and his team expand its footprint.”

The approved grant will be paid out upon project completion and comes from National Grid’s Shovel-Ready Incentive Program, which was created to help make high-potential sites more marketable for the expansion of job-creating companies. Information about National Grid’s suite of economic programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

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