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Plans For Dunkirk Freezer Facility Move Forward

The town of Dunkirk is likely the new home of a freezer facility. P-J file photo

DUNKIRK — Plans to bring a freezer storage facility to the town of Dunkirk are moving forward. The location would bring about 70 full time new jobs to the area.

The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency’s Board of Directors heard from company officials with Americold Real Estate, LLC Tuesday. Americold wants to build a new cold storage facility on Williams Street, near Arrowhead Drive in the town.

The company would serve Wells Enterprises by storing the plant’s Blue Bunny Ice Cream until it is shipped to wholesalers, distributors and retailers. They want to construct a 181,000 square foot facility on about 20 acres on vacant land. The total cost of the project is a little over $41 million. They’re seeking a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement, which would include real property tax abatement and sales tax abatement.

Mark Auer, director of program management for Americold Real Estate, discussed the proposal. The full land purchase is 28 acres, but is separated by Arrowhead Drive, with 20 acres on one side and eight on the other. Auer said the eight acres would remain undeveloped for now, with the freezer plant going on the 20 acre parcel.

The freezer plant will sit less than one quarter of a mile from Wells, with trucks traveling about three quarters of mile from plant to freezer.

“We will be bringing around 68-70 full time jobs to the area. Jobs for the warehouse employees will be an average rate of about $40,000-$45,000 annually,” said Auer. Manager jobs will run $55,000 to $75,000.

About 250 jobs will be created for the construction of the facility.

IDA Chairman Michael Metzger praised the project. “This is exciting and we really appreciate your development in choosing Chautauqua County,” he said.

Auer said they would like to get all their approvals in place by the end of April, including the PILOT agreement. Should that happen, they would break ground in early May. It will take about 11 months to construct. They would be hiring staff in January to start training so they can be in production by April, 2022.

According to Auer, Americold will own and operate the cold storage freezer facility. It will have a commercial agreement with Wells for storage, in excess of 20 years. They have contracts with Wells at other plants across the country.

Because of the increased tractor trailer traffic, Auer said they would like to have a signal light installed at Williams Street and Route 60. That decision will be up to the state Department of Transportation.

After hearing about the project, the county IDA board voted in favor of a resolution, authorizing them to enter into a preliminary agreement with Americold. A public hearing can now be held on the proposed PILOT agreement and the county IDA can give final approval next month.

Earlier this month, the Dunkirk Town Zoning Board of Appeals gave approval for two variances needed for the project.

County Executive PJ Wendel said he is excited about the project. “This is just an awesome opportunity for growth, especially for the north county,” he said.

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