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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 12:31 am

New roadway will connect agri-business park to Route 63

Town of Batavia planners are pushing forward with a proposal to add a second roadway into the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, connecting the park with Route 63.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said the need and opportunity for the roadway is driven by the requirement of the Muller Quaker yogurt plan for a gas main into the park and a $1 million grant for infrastructure upgrades from state's Office of Community Renewal.

The roadway was always part of the plan, Mountain said, but not until Phase 3.

In the nearer term, the town was going to construct an emergency vehicle access road through the County Highway Department's lot on Cedar Street, but it is more cost effective, Mountain said, just to build the connector to Route 63 now.

The design of the roadway needed to coincide with the gas main design for Muller Quaker, and Muller Quaker wanted to bring the line in through vacant property to save costs.

The vacant land is primarily made up of parcels owned by O-AT-KA Milk Products and local farmer Don Partridge.

The town is negotiating now with both property owners for a right-of-way access, but all of that land (in green on the map) was always intended to be part of the Phase 3 development of the agri-business park (and has already been through the environmental review process).

Mountain said Phase I of the park is already nearly full and it's his understanding that Partridge has received offers on his land.

Currently, the only developed roadway into the park is from Route 5.

Alpina Products will hold a ribbon-cutting Monday for its new facility, which will initially employ 50 people.

Next year, the Muller Quaker plant, a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group, will open with an original staff requirement of about 200 people. A mushroom farm and labeling facility (already open) are also among the park's first announced tenants.

Initially, Phase 2 of the development was to extend the rail line into the park, but there's been no demand for it yet from potential tenants.

Among the benefits of the Route 62 access point is that O-AT-KA will be able to use the roadway for truck traffic to his own facility, making the intersection of Route 63 and Cedar Street safer.

A public hearing on the revised planning map is set for Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Batavia Town Hall. More details of the project will be revealed then.

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.

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):

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 11:13 am

Schumer announces $1 million public works investment for ag park

Press release:

Today, Senator Charles E. Schumer announced a critical funding commitment for the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) through the Economic Development Administration (EDA), to complete essential infrastructure improvements at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park (GVAB) in Batavia.

In March of 2012, Schumer urged the EDA to support the ag park’s water system after the GGLDC applied for a $1 million investment from the EDA Public Works Program, which will go toward infrastructure improvements needed to support Muller-Quaker partners' -- Theo Muller Group and PepsiCo -- new $206 million yogurt manufacturing facility in the ag park.

Today, the EDA notified the GGLDC that the agency was granting it a $1 million preliminary award pending receipt of final supporting documents.

“This federal investment will mean more jobs and economic activity in Upstate New York, and more demand for our dairy farmers’ product. It is great news for the Genesee County’s Agri-Business Park that further solidifies Upstate New York’s place at the top of the rapidly expanding Greek yogurt production industry,” Schumer said.

“I urged the Economic Development Administration to support this project so that Genesee can pave the way for a major new water system at the Agri-Business Park in Batavia, helping to sprout hundreds of new jobs and Pepsi’s new Greek yogurt plant.

"The Agri-Business Park is going to be a huge driver of jobs and economic growth, and it’s clear that EDA agrees we need to make this investment to create jobs and new markets for our farms and dairies. The EDA made a smart choice and will get real bang for their buck with this investment.”

In March of 2012, Schumer wrote and personally called EDA Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Erskine to issue his support and noted that this investment would allow the ag park to construct an aquifer-direct water system, which is required for food processing and yogurt-product manufacturing.

The federal award will also help the project leverage millions in private-sector investments and will create approximately 186 jobs at the plant, all while providing a critical boost as Genesee County and Upstate New York work to keep pace with the lucrative and fast-growing yogurt production industry.

The GGLDC will use the $1 million, plus a local match, to construct an aquifer-direct water system required by food processors as municipal water is not optimal for the manufacturing process of yogurt products.

In addition to PepsiCo’s Muller-Quaker plant, the aquifer system will be utilized by other tenants at the park, such as yogurt product producer Alpina Foods. Alpina is in the process of constructing a 40,000-square-foot yogurt processing facility in the ag park and anticipates beginning production late this summer with the hiring of 50 new employees.

Schumer highlighted the fact that multiple economic development projects would be set to utilize this aquifer system once constructed, and noted that the project fits squarely in line with the administration’s focus on developing regional clusters of growth in specialized high-tech manufacturing.

This funding will help Genesee County close an over $1 million funding gap needed to upgrade the park’s road and sewer infrastructure to accommodate forthcoming new tenants like Muller-Quaker, Alpina, and Genesee Valley Mushroom.

In May, Schumer led the effort to secure $105,000 from the USDA to upgrade an essential pump station necessary to increase the park’s wastewater system’s capacity to support the park’s new tenants. To overcome the last of this funding gap, Schumer is also spearheading an effort to secure a $200,000 grant from USDA to construct the required secondary access road into the park. The USDA expects to announce winners of that grant within the next few weeks.

Earlier this year, Schumer urged Muller-Quaker partner PepsiCo, to source as much of the milk for their product as they can from New York’s dairy farmers. The new plant, to be built in Batavia, will create 186 jobs primarily around the manufacturing of various Greek yogurt products. Schumer noted that the plant will be the largest manufacturing operation to locate in Genesee County in the past 50 years.

Dairy processing has significantly increased, thanks to the opening of several new yogurt plants in the state, and the new Muller-Quaker plant represents the latest opportunity to increase demand for New York dairy products, a welcome boost for New York’s long-suffering dairy farmers.

The EDA Public Works Program provides funding for distressed communities to revitalize and upgrade physical infrastructure to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, and diversify local economies.

The Economic Adjustment Assistance Program helps address the needs of communities experiencing adverse economic changes that may occur suddenly or over time caused by international trade, long-term economic deterioration, loss of major community employer, or loss of manufacturing jobs. Funding can be used for infrastructure improvements like sewers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Gillibrand tours Alpina, says she's excited by signs of local economic growth

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent some time in Western New York on Tuesday, including at least two stops in Batavia.

Gillibrand met with area Democratic leaders for lunch at Larry's Steakhouse and then toured the Alpina Products factory under construction at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The facility, which will produce Greek yogurt and other dairy products, is nearing completion and should open in late August or September.

Gillibrand said seeing what is happening at the ag park -- which includes construction of a dairy production facility across the road from Alpina by PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group -- is "really exciting."

"It's such an opportunity for agricultural growth in this region," Gillibrand said. "Not only is Greek yogurt production one of the fastest growing products in New York, but nationwide, and it's so well located with all of our dairies that are so close by. It makes business sense. Not only do we have a great workforce, but we have a great product, so it's going to be exciting to create these jobs, to have this industry grow in Western New York."

While there's been conflicting reports on whether New York dairies can produce enough milk to meet the demands of the new and existing Greek yogurt factories in the state, Gillibrand said she believes the dairies can meet the demand.

She said she has also introduced legislation to help New York's small dairies increase production without driving up their insurance costs.

Currently, if a small dairy wants to add a significant number of milk-producing cows, they're going to hit a cap on production imposed by insurance rules.

Gillibrand's legislation would remove the cap.

"That might give the ability of a small dairy to go up to 300 or 400 cows to meet the needs of their customers," Gillibrand said. "That would make a big difference for these projects."

Yogurt producers, Gillibrand said, don't want the expense of trucking in milk from other states to keep their production lines going and her legislation would keep the local milk flowing, she said, adding that there would be no regulatory burdens for small dairies to grow to meet local demand.

Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center, also introduced Gillibrand to the STAMP project -- the 1,300 acre high-tech/nano-tech park that has been in planning for five years.

The senator took quite an interest in the project. She noted that with New York's previous success in Luther Forest -- the nano-tech corridor developing between Buffalo and Albany -- the surrounding technology-oriented university system, and the investment already made in the project, STAMP has a good chance to attract major manufacturers.

It was a validation of how the community and region came together on the ag park to have Gillibrand in Batavia on Tuesday to tour the Alpina facility.

"It’s really kind of heartwarming because this ag park was really nine-and-a-half years in the making," Hyde said. "Once we found a way to get it all done, get it funded, get it built, having two very significant manufacturing projects land in our back yard – like we talked about today, talk about the multiplier effect, Alpina’s working with OA-T-KA, and Stueben Food and a company in Rochester on packaging -- it’s just really really awesome."

Monday, May 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Photos: Construction progress at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park

I stopped by the Ag Park this afternoon just to see how construction is coming along -- Haskell has made some visible progress on the Pepsi/Muller Project Wave plant.

I happened to be on hand when some bedrock was blasted from the ground.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this sign warns that only Pepsi products are allowed in the construction area.

For those keeping score, it look like a majority of the vehicles in the employee parking lot had New York license plates.

Meanwhile, most of the work for the new Alpina plant is now taking place inside the new building. Alpina is on schedule to start producing yogurt in Batavia some time in August.

I didn't get a picture, but the Marktec building is completed.

Friday, April 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Haskell and Pepsi say they are hiring local workers and are pledged to hiring local workers

The Haskell Company, general contractor on Project Wave, and PepsiCo both pledged today to hire, whenever possible, local subcontractors, and say they've been following that practice from the beginning.

In fact, both companies say they have a non-binding agreement with the Genesee County Economic Development Center to hire local workers.

Union representatives from Rochester held a press conference today outside the building site at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and insisted that Haskell is not awarding enough contracts to builders from Western New York.

Dave Young, president of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as business manager of IBEW Local 86, told reporters to just walk through the parking lot (if allowed) and check license plates on the trucks pulled up behind the construction trailers.

"Pepsi has hired an out-of-state general contractor who is bringing up employees from Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia," Young said. "They're bringing them from everywhere but right in here New York State."

Young made his remarks flanked by union members -- Young said he represents 15,000 workers, 15 percent of whom are out of work -- and in front of a backdrop of earth movers grading the construction site.

The earth movers are owned and operated by Zoladz Construction, based in Alden.

Young (pictured) said the one solid piece of evidence his group has is a video he and some colleagues produced yesterday during their walk-through of the construction site parking lot.

When pressed to name out-of-state contractors who have been awarded contracts, Young named one, an electrical contractor out of Kentucky, but said he couldn't remember the names of the others.

He said the bid process for construction work such as this lacks transparency, which makes it hard to know for sure who is being hired for what jobs.

Yesterday, Steve Hyde told The Batavian that 50 percent of the contracts for the project have been awarded and 80 percent of those have gone to Western New York contractors.

Dave Balz, a VP with Haskell, said he didn't have the information in front of him to be able to confirm Hyde's numbers, but said Haskell is firmly committed to hiring local labor on all of its projects.

"In my experience, every community is concerned about the local work force and the local workers," Balz said. "We respect that concern. Local contractors with a good safety record are always welcome to bid on our projects."

Haskell signed a non-binding agreement with GCEDC to hire qualified subcontractors from the local area (which covers Genesee County as well as the surrounding counties), Balz said.

According to Scott Gilmore, a spokesman for Pepsi, the company signed a "local labor pledge" with GCEDC.

"Our pledge is to use a fair and competitive selection process for the construction of the new manufacturing facility, with a view to using as many New York State and local subcontractors and suppliers as reasonable," Gilmore said in a statement.

"As with any pledge of this nature, it is not legally binding, but it is a reflection of the goals and standards we seek to maintain as we proceed with development of the state-of-the-art dairy and yogurt production facility in Batavia, New York."

Gilmore also wrote, "We are committed to providing a measurable, positive impact to the Upstate local community and surrounding areas through the use of available, competitive local labor as we construct a state-of-the-art dairy and yogurt production facility in Batavia, New York."

Among Young's request is that GCEDC create a local labor requirement in its contacts with businesses, saying that the Monroe County IDA has such a requirement in its contracts.

The Batavian spoke briefly with a spokeswoman for COMIDA who said at first the claim was true, but when asked if such agreements were binding, she said she would need to double check. We've not yet heard back from her.

As for the video presented by the union, Balz said he would let it speak for itself, adding, "We are still early in a very long-term project to build a state-of-the-art yogurt plant. As things proceed on site, we intend and will take action on our pledge to do our very best to include local participation."

Previously: Union officials making waves over alleged out-of-state hiring practices of Wave Holding

Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Union officials making waves over alleged out-of-state hiring practices of Wave Holding

Two giant multinational companies received millions in taxpayer subsidies to launch "Project Wave" in Batavia on the promise of creating local jobs and stimulating the local economy, but so far, according to Dave Young, it's not happening.

Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, disputed Young's claims saying that Wave Holding has made a committment to hire a majority of local construction workers and that as of last week, 50 percent of the contracts had been awarded with 80 percent going to local firms.

Young is a union man -- president of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as business manager of IBEW Local 86 -- and he will hold a press conference at 10 a.m., Friday, at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park to try to draw attention to the number of out-of-state workers being employed by Wave Holding, LLC.

"There are a lot of construction workers in our area who are out of work," Young said. "This isn't a union or non-union issue. It's a community issue."

Young and Anna Dumont, executive director, Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, released a pair of videos Dumont said were shot this morning at the job site of Project Wave showing numerous out-of-state license plates on what they say are the cars of construction workers employed by building contractor Haskell and its subcontractors.

We received no reply to an email this afternoon to PepsiCo asking for comment on the situation.

Pepsi along with Germany-based Theo Muller Group formed Wave Holding to introduce a new Greek-style yogurt product to the United States and are spending more than $206 million to build a 363,000-square-foot facility.

The plant will initially employ nearly 200 people and could eventually employ as many as 600 people.

Wave Holding received more than $11 million in tax abatements for the project and the GCEDC has been able to channel millions more into building the ag park and ensuring the park has sufficient infrastructure to support operations there.

Young suggested GCEDC should adopt rules similar to those he claims are already in place in Monroe County -- if you get tax breaks for your project, you need to hire local workers.

"That's true of all IDA subsidized projects in Monroe County," Young said. "Some go union and some go non-union, but either way people in our community get to go to work every day. They earn paychecks that support their families. This is truly a community issue."

Hyde, who answered a couple of questions even though he's out of town on vacation, said the GCEDC supports local labor.

"We have done everything we can to encourage local labor and are a huge fan and advocate of local labor," Hyde said. "We have done so with Wave many times."

Young claimed the unemployment rate among construction workers in Western New York is about double the rate of the rest of the work force.

The problem with out-of-state workers (and Young thinks some of the workers at the site aren't even U.S. residents) is that they send their wages back home rather than spend the money here.

Studies, he said, put the multiplier effect of locally based construction work at three to seven times the worker's wages.

"They're paying taxes, going to local stores, getting things fixed locally, sending their kids to local schools and colleges," Young said.

Young said he hopes public attention on the matter will get Haskell to hire more local workers.

Meanwhile, throughout the construction of the Alpina yogurt plant, the parking lot -- including today -- has been consistently filled with vehicles with New York license plates.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Firms will get more than $11 million in tax relief to build giant yogurt factory in Batavia

PepsiCo and the Theo Muller Group -- partnering on Project Wave in Batavia -- will receive more than $11 million in tax relief for the planned yogurt plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The incentive package was approved by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board on Monday.

The PILOT on the project -- relief from taxes on the increased value of the assessment -- is 100 percent for the first six years and 50 percent in years seven through 10.

The total PILOT abatement is estimated at $5.6 million over 10 years.

The companies will also receive $5.4 million in sales tax abatement on materials and supplies for construction of the facility.

The project will add 186 new jobs to the local economy, and early planning for the plant projected as many as 600 jobs by 2033.

Wave Holding, LLC (the company formed by Pepsi and Muller for the project) will spend $206 million on construction of a 363,000-square-foot facility.

Construction on the project began in November.

The agreement calls for the first 186 jobs to be filled within three years of Wave Holding receiving a certificate of occupancy.

GCEDC competed with shovel-ready sites in Avon and Pennsylvania.

According to a GCEDC press release, for every $1 invested by Waving Holding the local economy will benefit by $14.47.

Friday, February 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Grant will help fund job training for food-processing work

The county is scheduled to receive a $7,200 grant to help fund training for potential food-processing workers, as part of the Finger Lakes Food Processing Cluster Initiative.

The grant will likely assist Genesee Community College in developing food-training classes, said Scott Gage, director of the Job Development Center, and comes at a good time, with companies like Alpina opening factories in Batavia, along with existing businesses such as Yancey's Fancy in Corfu.

"Workers need to learn manufacturing techniques, process control, and health and safety issues," Gage said. "We’re seeing this as a tool to help us with these new businesses moving into the town."

Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said there is an effort going forward from government agencies, schools and food-processing companies themselves to create a better trained work force for these types of businesses.

He said developing such tech-based job-training programs (and food processing is now a tech-based job) is hugely important for the region.

"We are better aligning education with industry needs," Hyde said. "If you really start being able to deliver (a better trained work force), boy, you are at a key strategic advantage (for attracting new businesses to the area)."

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