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Monday, August 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Gillibrand announces $200K USDA grant for secondary road at ag park

Press release:

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a federal grant worth $199,821 for a secondary access road at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The funding is allocated through the USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program, and is being awarded after Senator Gillibrand toured the nearly finished Alpina Yogurt facility and called for more federal investments in infrastructure at the ag-park in Batavia.

“This is an important investment that can help attract more businesses to the Genesee Valley ag-park, and support more jobs right here,”Senator Gillibrand said.

“I know the potential the ag-park has to help local businesses grow and be a major economic driver for the region. Investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest, most effective ways to create new jobs now, and lay the foundation for more jobs to come.”

In September 2011, Senator Gillibrand helped secure an additional $58,000 from USDA Rural Development for initial infrastructure upgrades at the agri-business park, including expanding existing roads and utilities.

Senator Gillibrand also brought a USDA official to Batavia in April 2012 to tour the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and hear firsthand from local leaders about the need for federal investments to grow this critical industry for the region.

In addition to the USDA, Senator Gillibrand has been active in pushing for federal funds through the U.S. Economic Development Administration to complete infrastructure improvements at the ag-park.

The federal grant funding will be used to design, engineer and construct a secondary access road at the ag-park, a key component of a range of planned infrastructure improvements, including the construction on an aquifer that is required by food processors.

Muller Quaker Dairy, an international yogurt producer, and Alpina Foods would greatly benefit from the completion of the aquifer and would contribute to an increased investment in Genesee County.

Upon the completion of the infrastructural improvements to the Ag-Park, Muller Quaker Dairy would be able to complete a $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility that they expect could generate approximately 186 jobs in the near-term, with the ability to create up to 600 jobs in the long-term. Alpina also expects to be able to create approximately 50 new jobs as a result of finishing the construction.

Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Darien Lake gets tax break to help refinance existing loans

post by Howard Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, GCEDC

The Genesee County Economic Development Center is helping the owners of Darien Lake Theme Park refinance $57.5 million in loans by authorizing a mortgage tax exemption of $719,062.

According to a GCEDC release, the bank refinancing the loans is -- for an unexplained reason -- requiring a new mortgage on the property, which is triggering a mortgage tax.

The theme park is owned by Georgia-based Herschend Family Entertainment, which has invested approximately $15 million in upgrades to the facility.

There are 400 full-time equivalent jobs at Darien Lake with an annual payroll of $11 million and the park generates $2.5 million in revenue for local governments and school districts through property and sales taxes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 11:48 am

Batavia Downs offering pieces of old neon sign to public

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

Press release:

With the construction of Batavia Downs Casino’s new LED sign, pieces of the old neon sign are now available to interested parties. Batavia Downs Casino has already given two letters to representatives of the Holland Land Office Museum of Batavia, but other letters still remain.

Interested persons should contact Tom Balk, director of Building and Grounds for information on obtaining remaining pieces. It should be noted that the letters are over 7 feet tall and in various states of disrepair having been on the roof for so long. Mr. Balk can be reached at (585) 343-3750, ext. 312.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Photos: Silo raising at Alpina plant

Workers today are installing the first two silos at the new Alpina Products plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Batavia.

The first silo is 40 feet tall and will hold up to 20,000 gallons of raw milk. The second silo is half the height and will hold 12,000 gallons of whey.

More silos can be added as the capacity of the Greek yogurt plant increases.

More pictures after the jump (click on the headline to continue):

Monday, August 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Sponsored Post: Like Graham Careers for a chance to win a $100 gift card from Alex's

post by Howard Owens in advertisement, business, graham corp., Sponsored Post

REMINDER: You must "Like" Graham Careers on Facebook and register for the contest to be eligible to win. Click here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 10:44 am

7-Eleven set to sell three Wilson Farms locations in Genesee County

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Le Roy

In 2011, 7-Eleven, Inc., acquired the Buffalo-based Wilson Farms chain and according to an industry report, the company that pioneered the convenience store concept decided to sell three of newly purchased locations in Genesee County.

According to CSPnet.com, 7-Eleven will sell two locations in Batavia and one Le Roy.

The Batavia locations would appear to be the stores at corner of Ellicott and Cedar streets and at 189 Pearl St.

A month or so ago, 7-Eleven converted the Wilson Farm at 505 E. Main St., Batavia, to its own branded store.

It appears 7-Eleven is unloading the locations that sell gas.

"In any acquisition of an entire chain, there will inevitably be some stores that don't fit with a buyer's long-term strategic plans," said Robbie Radant, 7-Eleven vice president of mergers and acquisitions. "Such is the case with these 30 properties. While not right for our current operations, we believe they will provide great opportunities for the right buyers, as they did for Wilson Farms over the years."

Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Owner of new business in Batavia hopes to educate children about importance of reptiles

post by Howard Owens in animals, batavia, business, education

Children participating in the city's Summer Youth Program stopped by Pioneer Reptiles in Batavia today, where owner Crystal Poyfair showed the youngsters a variety of lizards, turtles and snakes and other creepy-crawly things. With certain animals, the children were able to feed, hold or touch them. They also got to meet some of the future food of the reptiles, such as giant cockroaches.

Pioneer Reptiles is herpetological breeding facility that breeds and works with pet reptiles and investment-quality reptiles and some critically endangered species.

Poyfair has been working with reptiles for 20 years. She recently moved her business to Batavia from Virginia so her family could be closer to her husband's family.

She said she's deeply involved in the reptile industry and served as executive producer on the documentary Herpers 3. She's been working with Bob Irwin (father of late, great Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin) and Colin Riddell to help end the slaughter of endangered sea turtles and dugong species in Australia.

Tours of the reptile facility are available by appointment, Poyfair said. She really wants to help educate children on the importance of reptiles in nature.

"One of the biggest messages I'm trying to get across is the fact that you really need conservation," Poyfair said. "Don't listen to the old myths. Not all snakes are dangerous. They're not all bad. They serve a purpose in nature, but they're disappearing at an alarming rate."

Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Historic Masonic Temple building remains open during restoration project

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Masonic Temple

Don't let the scaffolding around the historic Masonic Temple building at Main and Center streets fool you -- the shops and offices inside the structure remain open for business.

Owner Dave Howe has hired Catenary Construction out of Rochester to give the brick and mortar structure a $150,000 facelift. The masonry is being repointed and restored.

"I could have done some temporary fixes along the way, and could be doing that forever, but the right thing to do to save the building is restore the whole building," Howe said.

Catenary's most recent Batavia projects were the restoration of the St. James Episcopal Church tower and the restoration of the First Baptist Church.

Construction of the Masonic Temple Building was probably completed in 1909. Howe said he has tattered blueprints that are dated 1908.

While Howe is shouldering the majority of the expense, he has conditional approval on a state Main Street Grant for $35,000 and the Business Improvement District is providing a $7,000 facade-improvement grant.

"I couldn't have done it without the help of Don Burkel at the BID and Julie Pacatte at the BDC," Howe said.

Howe recently won a Landmark Society Award for the restoration work on his house in Alexander and the long-time business owner has nursed along the aging Masonic Temple building for a couple of decades, making various repairs and upgrades to keep the building suitable for his business, Charles Men's Shop, and his tenants.

"Besides the fact that I love older buildings and the history of older buildings, also my business is here and it's important to keep up the appearnace of the building for my business and my tenants," Howe said.

Tenants include Enchanted Florist, Travelore, The Batavian, Blue Pearl Yoga, attorney Tom Burns, A Place for Change and the BID.

All businesses and offices remain open during the project, which will take a couple of months, and pedestrian access to East Main Street remains open under the scaffolding.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 1:25 am

Rail still vital link in Batavia's economy and opportunity for growth

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Gensee Valley Transportation, rail

Batavia's rail system sits on beds that are more than 150 years old, but remain relevent and essential in 2012 to local business.

To help ensure the more than one dozen Batavia businesses that regularly use  the line -- now operated by Genesee Valley Transportation -- can continue to depend on the rail system to bring in materials for manufacturing, the state and feds have ponied up nearly $500,000 in grants to make critical repairs.

This week crews are replacing the ties under the steel rails on portions of the entire three miles of the track.

"There's a lot to be said for the work going on out here because if you take the weak spots and strengthen them, that strengthens the whole line," said Director of Operations Doug Eisele. "What’s that have to do with the customer? A whole lot because (if) you derail somewhere, the customer is not getting his product until you get it cleaned up."

Throughout New York, according to Syracuse.com, short line rail is experiencing a resurgance in business, but refurbishing antique tracks is an expensive process primarily because the heavy equipment for the jobs is too costly for small lines to even think about buying for infrequent work.

That means contractors -- driving up costs -- are necessary, and that means without the grants, lines so essential to local business would continue to decline to the point of being impossible to use.

Typically, the tracks have been deteriorating for years because owners who were responsible for the lines before they were acquired by short lines (and this was the case in Batavia, according to Eisele) neglected routine maintenance.

According to the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, the number of short line companies in the U.S. has increased from 200 in 1980 to more than 500 today as national carriers have decided to sell of regional routes.

Eisele said rail makes a lot of sense for manufacturing businesses because it's so much more cost effective than trucking.

"Trucking is available to get there quick, but on top of that is the extra expense, whereas rail can undercut those rates and still provide reasonable service," Eisele said. "That’s really what the customers are looking for."

According to the Syracuse.com article, rail can ship "three to four trucks worth of goods 300 miles on a gallon of diesel."

The Short Line association reported in 2009 that "Short line railroads take the equivalent of nearly 33 million truck loads off the highways, saving the country over $1.4 billion annually in highway repair costs and improving highway safety and congestion."

GVT operates six lines with 300 miles of track in Orleans and Erie counties as well as Utica and the North counties along with one line in Pennsylvania.

The company is based in Batavia and employs locally -- including rail operations and company administration -- 22 people.

Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said GVT is definitely an economic development asset for Batavia.

In discussion with companies looking at Batavia as a location for manufacturing, the availability of rail is a common topic of discussion.

"Having a short line rail system that is well established and well respected and does a really good job like Genesee Valley Transportation is another major asset that helps our strategic development efforts," Hyde said.

While none of the current tenants of the new Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has yet requested rail, Muller/Pepsi and Alpina have expressed an interest in rail, Hyde said, and future tenants might have a strong need for rail.

The GVT line runs right up to the property line of the ag park and the state has earmarked $1 million in grants to extend the line if the need arises.

The local short line connects into CSX tracks and typically, rail cars are picked up and dropped off at operations connecting the two lines.

For businesses such as Chapin, Graham, Genesee Lumber and Eddy Arnold Recycling, the GVT line is pretty much a direct part of their businesses, but for many other local companies, GVT's recently constructed transfer center at Evans and Mill streets offers a cost-effective way to send and receive large shipments via rail.

The 22,000-square-foot warehouse can help any business throughout Western New York not directly connected with a rail line eliminate hundreds of miles of highway shipping for the more cost-effective alternative of rail.

The ease of access for local rail is also the best bet for turning old factory space in the heart of Batavia into thriving business ventures again, according to both Eisele and Hyde.

"We have buildings here that have been vacant for years," Eisele said. "If a new customer can come in and get a business in shape, if we have the track there that hasn't been used in years, we would come in and find ways to get that track back into shape so the could get their business going. The whole idea is to bring business back into the county and that's what we do."

Hyde said GCEDC is available to help revitalize that aging industrial infrastructure.

"Having an active rail line near some of those older industrial sites to help those things redevelop over time is good and we would certainly be happy to be part of the team," Hyde said.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Genesee County named one of top areas in nation for food processing growth

Press release:

For the third year in a row Genesee County has been recognized in the top five of the rankings in the Metro Food Processing Industry Growth category by "Business Facilities" a national site selection publication.

The agriculture industry in Genesee County employs more than 1,500 workers, a number that will dramatically increase with the opening of Alpina Foods, LLC, and PepsiCo/Muller yogurt manufacturing facilities.

“The construction of two major new food processing facilities by Alpina and the joint venture between PepsiCo and Theo Müller demonstrates a significant return on our investment in our Agri-Business Park which we believe is driving our high national ranking,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “We are honored to be once again recognized by 'Business Facilities' as it keeps us on the radar screen for site selectors throughout the United States and the world.”

The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park encompasses 202 shovel-ready, pre-permitted acres strategically located between Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region. On site there is access to low-cost process water via a local aquifer that produces more than six million gallons per day and a pretreatment facility as well as rail access.

Through the support of National Grid and National Fuel, the site has an enhanced utility infrastructure. The agri-park was originally a public-private partnership between GCEDC and Farm Credit East.

“The Agri-Business Park in Genesee County is perfectly tailored to fill a niche in our region created by our productive agricultural sector,” said Mary Pat Hancock, chair, Genesee County Legislature. “It makes perfect sense to have those who process food to have their facilities as near as possible to where the food is produced.

"It makes for a better, safer, and tastier product and is also more efficient.  Our resources lend themselves to food processing and our location is ideal for quick market access. We look forward to continued success and expansion.”

Alpina Foods LLC, one of the most recognized dairy companies in the world and a leading dairy producing company in Colombia and South America, has decided to open its first specialty yogurt manufacturing plant in the United States at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

PepsiCo, in a joint venture with German dairy company Theo Müller, also broke ground earlier this year on a $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility at the park. Other food processing facilities in Genesee County include O-AT-KA Milk, Yancey’s Fancy and Allan’s Canning. 

“The significant dairy supply, abundance of fresh water, and talented workforce are just some of the assets that attract food manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Theo Müller and Alpina foods to Western New York,” said Mark S. Peterson, president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise. “It’s no wonder that more than 100 food manufacturers have operations here.”

“Genesee County’s strategic location and agricultural assets make it a prime location destination for the food processing industry,” said Thomas A. Kucharski, president and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

“The vision Genesee County officials have shown in developing shovel-ready sites like the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has distinguished them among peer communities and allowed us to succeed in attracting global investment and job creation like Alpina, Mueller and more."

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