Borrello Explains Economic Development Plans

On Feb. 26, Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club members welcomed Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello as the guest presenter. During his program at The Parkview in Westfield, Borrello outlined various initiatives for the county.

WESTFIELD — Communication, collaborations and plans for a corridor of development between Barcelona Harbor and Chautauqua Lake were some of the topics that County Executive George Borrello addressed recently with members of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville at The Parkview in Westfield.

Borrello and his assistant Dan Heitzenrater were welcomed by Mary Swanson, club president. John “Doc” Hamels, club president-elect, sponsored the program and introduced Borrello. Borrello’s program was a preview of his State of the County address.

Before being sworn in as County Executive on Jan. 1, 2018, Borrello was a businessman and entrepreneur who grew Top-Shelf Marketing, his own business, into a nationally recognized supplier to the hospitality industry. After merging his company with Progressive Specialty Glass Company, he became its vice president of marketing. He served as a Chautauqua County legislator representing Hanover for eight years and as chairman of the Regional Solutions Commission from 2016-17. In 2017 he retired from business to pursue public service full-time. Also, he is involved with the beachfront hospitality and tourism business in Sunset Bay, where he and his wife reside.

“Our main goal is to elevate Chautauqua County to a higher level through the achievement of critical mass,” Borrello said. “This is the ability to give people multiple reasons to visit and live in an area. Westfield is an example of a community that reinvented itself. I’m in the hospitality business. A community can remain special and unique, but it also must be inviting. Westfield has achieved critical mass in that more businesses with a greater diversity are opening. More folks are buying houses here, and there is an array of area attractions, such as the McClurg Museum and the Grape Discovery Center. “

He noted plans for further development of the corridor between Barcelona Harbor and Chautauqua Lake, a collaboration with the Chautauqua Rails-to-Trails group, and a related grant to create the Welch Park Trail from Barcelona to Chautauqua Lake. He mentioned the Webb Family’s new Lodge at Chautauqua Lake condo resort and also the plans to move the pop series concerts from Bemus Point to Mayville, “where there is much more available parking for the concert attendees.”

“Our focus at the county level is infrastructure and housing,” Borrello said. “Some of the missing links we have is the lack of main street housing, especially for the empty-nesters, who want vital, walking communities. At the other end of the spectrum, we have to be attractive to the millennials, who seem to want to rent rather than own properties. We want people to both work and live in our communities. The Phoenix in the north end of the county is attractive to millennials, but we need housing for them. I’m excited about the Welch Building progress here in Westfield. Since I met with the developer last year, the building has been renovated. The first floor has office spaces for rent. We moved our Department of Planning and Community Development to the Welch Building on Jan. 1 of this year. Also, Tractor Supply will break ground for a new store in Westfield this spring, and the plans are for it to be open for business in the fall.”

In addition to establishing a comprehensive economic development plan, Borrello said, “The focus of my first year was all about communication. My goal during my first 100 days in office was to meet with 100 businesses and organizations throughout the county to listen to their concerns and learn. After meeting with 107 different entities, a recurring theme I heard was that there are available jobs in Chautauqua County. What we lack is a qualified workforce. We’ve changed the conversation to the issue of workforce development. We need employees who will pass drug tests and who will show up to work on time. We need those with skilled trades.”

Borrello spoke about meeting with the State University at Fredonia and Jamestown Community College representatives several times to discuss how these institutions of higher learning might offer new certificate programs for those interested in seeking trades, such as welding and CDL driving.

“We also need to change our discussion about the recruitment of employees to our area,” Borrello said. “We have to control the flow of information and tell why our county is such a wonderful place to live. My background is in marketing and being an entrepreneur. Chautauqua County is our product, and we need to successfully market it.”

He then spoke about enhancing the collaboration among county municipalities, businesses, nonprofits and other stakeholders.

“Our big push will be to roll out the Economic Development Alliance at the end of March so that various entities can make collective decisions and we can have a cohesive economic strategy,” Borrello said.

Borrello spoke about the plans for a gateway to New York in Ripley, and that “it would not just be a static location and certainly not just a rest stop. We need something to be proud of at this entrance to our state. We are proud of our wineries, the Grape Discovery Center, the ale trail sites and more. We have to give people a reason to get off the Thruway, spend time here and return again.”

He referenced Tamarack, W.V., a site with options for quick-service dining.

“I want this Gateway to New York state to be a Chautauqua County-led project, not just a Chautauqua County project,” Borrello said.

A feasibility study is currently under way and then the plan would be to sell it to New York state and county partners as well as build grassroots support for the project.

Another plan in the works Borrello discussed was for creating a hops and grains cooperative in the county, with a central location for growers to bring their hops and barley for processing and storage.

“This would be a year-round production effort, rather than a seasonal one. A Chautauquan grown brand would then be marketed. It’s a big idea, but we’re committed to raising the $120,000 funds for the feasibility study. Half of the funds have already been provided by an interested part,” he said.

He said that this initiative could be an alternative to local dairy and grape farming, which have had economic downturns.

“Farmers don’t want a hand out,” Borrello said. They want a fair market price to keep their business afloat and to feed their families.”