(2:55 PM) IDA To Provide Financial Assistance For Grape Growers Expansion

P-J photo by William Mohan

Two 500,000-gallon tanks are being constructed to increase the storage capacity for Growers’ Co-Op in Westfield.

On Tuesday, the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency board approved a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement and mortgage recording tax exemption for the $3.4 million project. Linda Burns, IDA new business development manager, said the PILOT agreement will save Growers’ Co-Op around $800,000.

Steve Cockram, Growers’ Co-Op general manager, said the PILOT will allow the business to invest more funding into their facility. He said the two new tanks will increase Growers’ Co-Op production by one-third.

“We decided it’s time to go big,” Cockram said about increasing storage capacity.

Cockram said there are only three main regions in the world where concord grapes are grown — Washington, Michigan and Chautauqua County. He said by having more storage capacity they will be able to compete better against their competition. He added Growers’ Co-Op just doesn’t sell grape juice to local wineries, but to wineries throughout the U.S.

The 8-foot-wide, 70-foot-tall tanks will be installed in a new 800-square-foot building. Founded in 1919, Growers’ Co-Op is situated in the largest Concord grape growing region in the world in Chautauqua County. The Westfield expansion will result in one million gallons of additional storage, promoting the ability for local farmers to grow and preserve more grapes, which will help meet the increased demand for single-strength juice in the regions growing wine industry.

The construction of the facility will employee around 20 contractors full-time for four months. In the long-term, the new tanks will have the capacity to hold roughly 700 acres of crop from local farmers, or six 125-acre farms, each requiring two full-time employees plus positions available for up to five harvesters. Construction is underway with the project to go online in July.