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Friday, June 21, 2013 at 8:46 am

First food processing tech class earns certificates

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCC, GCEDC

Press release:

Through financial support provided by National Fuel and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the first class of 25 graduates received certificates as part of a workforce development program targeting the food processing industry.

Certificates were awarded to the graduates in Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt through RIT, basic dairy science and sanitation through Cornell University, as well as team building and OSHA training in a manufacturing environment through The BEST Center at Genesee Community College.

“This program is just another example of the high level of collaboration in our region between the public and private sectors and in this instance, our centers of higher education and food processing companies,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. “If we are going to create a world-class industry cluster in the food processing industry, then we need to make sure our workforce is highly trained and educated.”

Cornell University’s Department of Food Science and Cornell Cooperative Extension has been a long-term resource to the food growing and dairy processing industry in Western NY.

“Workforce development is now a key to the growing industry and we are continuously developing and improving our training programs and accessibility to meet industry needs and to support economic development," said Tristan Zuber, Dairy Foods Processing Extension associate with Cornell University.

The first graduating class of 25 individuals was from a pool of 78 applications. Sixteen graduates were from Genesee County; three from Livingston County; two from Orleans and Monroe counties; and, one from Wyoming and Cattaraugus counties.

One graduate has been hired while 18 graduates will visit and tour Yancey’s Fancy, an artisan cheese maker in Corfu, as part of a job application project at the company. Alpina and Muller Quaker Dairy are also interviewing and considering the graduates at their yogurt manufacturing facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park.

“This is just the first step in a process to ensure that as the food processing industry grows there is an ample supply of labor to fill jobs,” said John Jakubowski a workforce consultant hired by GCEDC. “The certificate program provides a short-term solution to fill a gap, but we need to continue working on a longer term plan so that people who want a career in food processing have the skills and training to be successful.”

As part of this process, Genesee Community College has asked the New York State Education Department to approve a two year Food Processing Technology associates degree. The program has already been approved by the GCC Board of Trustees and is now under review by the State University of New York as well as SED.

“While anticipating the implementation of GCC’s full credit Food Processing Technology program, The BEST Center will be offering three more sessions of the two-week, intensive certificate program,” said Lina LaMattina, director of Business Skills Training at The BEST Center. “We are also reaching out to numerous companies within all segments of the food industry to expand employment opportunities for the program participants. After a very successful first class, we are looking forward to the next session which starts September 23, 2013.”

Those interested in applying to be part of next training cohort should contact the Genesee County Career Center (One Stop) in the Eastown Plaza, 587 E. Main St., Suite 100, Batavia, (585) 344-2042. Applicants take ability tests in math and reading. If needed, assistance with these skills is available.

May 2013 GCEDC Food Processing Training Program Graduates (all of New York):

Craig Barnes – Le Roy
Dawn Czaja – Oakfield
Victor DiGregorio – Byron
Mark Ebersole – Mt. Morris
Mary Fulkerson – Rochester  
Jeffery German – Batavia
Laurie Gerstenslager – Delevan
Donna Heininger – Batavia  
Elizabeth Horner – Darien Center
Jeanne Jansch – Dansville
Kevin Jones – Batavia  
Sharon Joyce – Batavia 
Jake Kent III – Henrietta
Steven Lindsley – Warsaw
Donald Lowe – Batavia  
Catherine MacConnell – Bergen   
Jacob MacConnell – Bergen
David Minervino – Medina
Thomas Misisco – Pavilion  
John Mosher – Bergen
Rachel Neilans – Alexander
Elise Prevost – Leicester
Daniel Sobczak – Batavia
Paul Stack – Elba
Jamie Unger – Kent

Friday, June 21, 2013 at 8:35 am

Batavia Downs announces support for new gaming legislation

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business, Western Regional OTB

Press release:

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTBC), owner/operator of Batavia Downs has pledged its support of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act and the referendum that will be put to the citizens of New York State in November.

“This legislation keeps Batavia Downs Gaming as a vital partner to state and local governments,” said Michael Kane, president and CEO of WROTBC and Batavia Downs Gaming. “This act will allow us to continue providing good paying jobs and generating significant funding for schools and our municipalities. Governor Cuomo and the legislature recognize the significant contributions made by racetrack casinos in Western New York to state education funding and job creation.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Statement from Chris Collins on defeat of farm bill

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

“Today’s unfortunate defeat of the House Farm Bill speaks to the dysfunction in Washington that continues to stand in the way of solving real problems for real Americans.

Agriculture is a critical industry in New York’s 27th Congressional District, impacting our local residents far beyond those directly doing the hard work of farming. Our farmers and growers deserve a Congress that can come together and pass a long-term Farm Bill. It is essential to help our agricultural industry plan and prepare.

As  a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I remain committed to the work ahead to see a Farm Bill become law.” 

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Photos: Batavia's Downtown Public Market opens

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, public market

The Downtown Public Market opened today at the corner of Center and Ellicott.

Above, Eliza Schwab of Schwab Farms, Gasport.

Tiffany Ivison, Usborne Books.

Salters Alston, Alston's BBQ sauce. (Stop by for some pulled pork!)

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

Chamber endorses Cuomo's Tax-Free NY plan

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has reviewed Governor Cuomo's economic agenda for "Tax-Free Communities" in and around specified college and university campuses. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce welcomes any environment that will facilitate the establishment of new long-term businesses and create more jobs while ensuring that existing businesses and jobs are likewise encouraged to thrive. This legislation has the potential to bring in businesses that otherwise might not have recognized all that Genesee County has to offer.

This endorsement is based solely on the above understanding of the legislation's purpose. Care must be taken that its actual implementation does not involve provisions, policies, or procedures that are counter to the spirit of the Bill. Not only must New York State taxpayers not be adversely affected by such legislation, but red tape, forced spending, and bureaucratic decisions would force extra costs onto the new businesses and cause them to lose the benefits that they supposedly received. Given that the Bill is designed to help startup companies begin their ventures, it is imperative that future tax savings not be offset by startup costs that would be much greater than those the company would incur in the private sector. We look forward to the time when companies can see that all of New York is open for business.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

Downtown Batavia Public Market opens Thursday

post by Billie Owens in BID, business, farmers market

Press release:

BRING YOUR FEET DOWNTOWN AND MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES! The Batavia Business Improvement District announces the opening of the Downtown Batavia Public Market on Thursday, June 20 and runs through Sept. 26. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., every Thursday and is located at the corner of Center & Ellicott (Rte 63) streets in Downtown Batavia.

Conveniently located in the center of our city, visit our market before you do your regular shopping to be sure your food is the freshest and that your dollars remain local. Now entering its eighth year, the public market has grown and changed to become a staple of the Downtown.

The market this season will have the following vendors providing fresh baked goods, a wide variety of produce and fruits herbs, flowers, maple syrup, dip mixes, dog treats, BBQ sauce, handmade quilts and other items. Plus, pulled pork sandwiches, Italian sausage, hot dogs and hamburgers for lunchtime at the market. Look for the colorful umbrellas.

Vendors include: Alston’s BBQ Sauce; Athena’s Bakery & Dog Treats; Crazy Quilts; Irene’s Variety; Karen’s Yarn Paper & Scissors; Nice Farms; Stymus Farms; and Schwab Farms.

If you would like to know more about how to participate in the Downtown Public Market, please contact Don Burkel at the BID at 585-344-0900 or email [email protected] for local food, fun, and familiar faces!

Monday, June 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Collins asks small business owners in NY-27 to take survey

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

To mark National Small Business Week, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) is asking small business owners in his district to complete an online survey about the economy and other issues impacting the small business sector. Starting today, Collins will be e-mailing the survey to small business owners across the eight counties of New York’s 27th Congressional District. Small business owners not a part of the Congressman’s e-mail list are encouraged to complete the survey on the Congressman’s Web site.

The survey asks local small business owners to weigh in on such topics as federal regulations, taxes, and the new employer mandate which is part of the President’s healthcare law. Collins is also asking small business owners to report on recent hiring activity, reasons why owners are or are not hiring, and what programs they would like to see the federal government pursue to spur small business growth and development.

“As a small business owner myself, I understand firsthand the challenges and hurdles business owners face on a day-to-day basis,” Collins said. “As a member of Congress, one of my top goals is to continue to push hard for common-sense polices that create the right kind of economic environment for small business entrepreneurs to expand their company or start a new business, and hire more people. While I will continue to visit directly with small business owners all across NY-27, this survey is a great opportunity to hear from a wide array of small business owners so I can best represent their interests in Washington.”

Collins is a member of the House Small Business Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Health and Technology. National Small Business Week runs from June 17 through June 21. On June 21, Collins will host a roundtable meeting, talking with small business owners directly about the issues addressed in the survey.

The survey can be found online at chriscollins.house.gov

Friday, June 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The Pok-A-Dot, a Batavia landmark, turns 60 this month

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot

The Pok-A-Dot turns 60 years old this month and co-owner Phil Pastore couldn't be happier.

Not many restaurants survive 60 years, and fewer still with the same ownership.

"It’s probably one of the greatest things in my life, to own something for 60 years and still be alive to appreciate it," Pastore said.

"We're quite proud," said his wife, Leona, "quite proud."

Pastore said his friend Joe Marone, who ran a concession business, came to him one day while he was working at Masse Harris and suggested they open a hot dog stand at the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets.

In the 60 years since, the Pok-A-Dot has become a landmark, a throwback to a simpler time of friends and neighbors seeing each other every day and sharing a bite to eat. It was the favorite restaurant of famed author John Gardner and has become a must-visit stop for many politicians on the campaign trail.

It's been featured in international media reports.

And still, it's a place where locals come for coffee and breakfast or a beef-on-weck every day.

"It's the food," Pastore said, explaining the Pok-A-Dot's success. "And it's a very friendly place, a place where you can sit around an eat and talk with people. That's what it's really known for."

The 60th anniversary celebration will be from 5 to 9 p.m., June 22. Musician Bill McDonald and friends will play and many old friends are sure to gather.

Photo: Joe Marone, Joanne Cox, Phil Pastore and Nicole Johnson.

Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:48 am

Batavia Downs not terribly hurt by Cuomo's deal with Senecas, but just don't call it a casino

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

We're not supposed to call it Batavia Downs Casino anymore, but beyond that, officials are still sorting out what a new compact between New York and the Seneca Nation means for Western Regional OTB.

In exchange for resuming long-overdue payments, at a reduced rate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has granted the Senecas exclusive rights to casino operations in WNY.

Exactly what "exclusivity" means hasn't been entirely spelled out, said Michael Kane, president of the Western Regional OTB.

Dick Siebert said he's worried the governor has given away Rochester to the Senecas after promising that Batavia Downs would be the only gaming facility in the region.

Dropping "casino" from the name isn't too troubling, nor is the requirement to stop calling video terminal games "slots," and even the loss of electronic table games isn't crippling, but there needs to be some compensation to WROTB for the deal cut with the Senecas.

The Senecas had their taxes reduced, Siebert said, so should Batavia Downs.

"They got what they wanted and we’re just looking for a little relief ourselves since they took the table games away from us," he said.

WROTB is lobbying for a 15-percent reduction in the amount of money it sends to New York, Siebert said.

"We need concessions to be able to provide more for our local counties," Siebert said.

Batavia Downs is undergoing a $27-million renovation downstairs and space was being set aside for electronic table games. That space will just now be used for something else, Siebert said.

"We can survive without them (the table games), that's for sure," Siebert said.

Kane agreed.

"We still think our customers will be very happy with the expansion," Kane said.

Related link: The Buffalo News.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

With no malt houses in New York, Hawleys' new venture to fill unique niche at the right time

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, Beer, business, Patricia Hawley, Ted Hawley

You can't brew beer without malt, which is something Ted Hawley thinks legislators forgot about when they passed a farm brewing bill last year that will eventually require ales and lagers  labeled "New York Beer" to contain 90 percent locally grown ingredients.

"They just thought they could grow barley in New York," Hawley said. "They didn't know there was another step, which is malting. It has to be malted before you use it in a brew. So it was kind of interesting that they put this huge amount of effort into requiring 90 percent ingredients from New York, but there's no way it can be produced with 90 percent ingredients."

The timing of the bill was fortuitous for Ted and Patricia Hawley, who started planning a year earlier to open a malt house on their farm off Bank Street Road, Batavia.

It will be the only malt house in New York, though the Hawleys are sure others are coming with anticipation of a craft brew boom in the state thanks to the new rules.

The farm beer license created by the bill is modeled after the winery license, which requires local ingredients and allows for tastings, on-site sales, bigger production runs and statewide distribution.

The Hawleys, like the bill's supporters, envision beer trails -- like wine trails -- and a new branch of agri-tourism throughout Central and Western New York, with hopefully the Hawley's malt house, and Batavia, right on the map.

The Hawleys are never afraid to dream big, and asked about the future of craft beer in Batavia, Patty shared a vision of microbreweries being drawn to the area.

"If you look at the larger picture, it would be really great if we could encourage microbrewers to come in, who are largely young, to set down roots, raise their families here, to change the landscape of what Genesee County looks like," Patty said. "It would be very cool to bring in that demographic, who then attract others with that whole artisanal mindset."

The Hawleys have no immediate plans to brew beers themselves, though they imagine selling beer right on their farm that's created by other microbrewers using Hawley malts.

It's almost a matter of coincidence that the Hawleys came into the malting business.

Living local is important to the Hawleys and they also have a strong interest in organic products (Patty Hawley owns Fountain of Youth Organics in Brockport), so two years ago, Ted went to a conference to learn more about growing organic grains for commercial bakeries.

"We were thinking that we were going to grow some organic grains on a little bit of land that we have for the baking industry, which is another kind of booming initiative," Patty said. "At this conference, there was one brief mention, like a sentence or two, if there were any entrepreneurs out there, malt is needed and there are no malt houses. Initially we weren't thinking in that direction."

Ted started researching the idea and saw it as a great opportunity for a new business venture even before the farm bill passed.

Since then, he's been learning everything he can about malting and grains, attending conferences, taking workshops, going to seminars.

"About 100 yeas ago, New York State used to be the largest producer of barley, the largest producer of malt, the largest producer of hops in the whole country," Ted said. "Some fungus came in and kind of knocked it down a little because of the farming practices and repetitive planting and (the state) never recovered after Prohibition."

Hawley just returned from the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Center, where he found himself sitting next to representatives from the largest breweries in the world.

The center, he said, can create any kind of climate in the world. They grow many varieties of barely in different conditions and then malt the barley in small batches and brew beer to test the results.

Not all barley types grow equally well in all climates and since malt varieties of barley haven't been grown in New York in nearly 100 years, Hawley is on a search to find the best barley varieties to grow in Genesee County.

To get their malting operation off the ground, the Hawleys are growing barley on 43 acres in Byron (top photo) and planted a variety that is used commonly for malting. But Ted also has a field in Le Roy where he's growing 23 varieties of barley in cooperation with researchers from Cornell.

"A variety you grow out in the Midwest is not going to grow the same here," Ted said. "We've got to see what grows here and thrives and keeps the proteins down and the enzymes up, which is different than feed-grade barley, which is protein high, enzymes low, and that's what's been planted here the last 100 years."

The Hawley malt house will produce a variety of artisanal malts based on the varieties of barley and other grains they find grow best in Genesee County.

Already, some 50 brewers have expressed an interest in Hawley malts, from some larger craft brewers to guys still brewing private stock in a garage, Ted said.

The passage of the bill also created another opportunity for the Hawleys. They were able to apply for and receive a $117,000 state grant, which allowed them to immediately double the size of their operation.

Eventually, Ted believes the Hawley house will produce 150 tons of malt a year, but he's starting out small -- 1,000 pounds a week (the 43 acres in Byron will yield 43 to 50 tons of malt).

"This is all new, so I need to feel comfortable doing this," Ted said. "It's quite an intricate process."

There is no limit to the kinds of recipes brewers can dream up for beer and the Hawleys think that creative opportunity will help fuel a craft beer boom in New York and that brewers are ready for locally produced malts unique to New York.

"This craft brewing industry is phenomenal," Ted said. "There's no rules. I mean, there could be up to 30 ingredients in brews, from nuts and berries to honey, to apples. There's no rules and there are some great craft brews that are being processed right now in people's garages. This farm brewing bill will offer them an opportunity to open up larger and sell their brews."

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