Large Investment

IDA Provides Financial Boost For Grape Growers Expansion

Two 500,000-gallon tanks have been built at the Grower's Co-Op in Westfield. The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency on Tuesday approved a 10-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement and mortgage recording tax exemption for the $3.4 million project. P-J photo by William Mohan

Two 500,000-gallon tanks are being constructed to increase the storage capacity for Grower’s 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.

Center, Steve Cockram, Growers' Co-Op general manager, discussing the $3.4 million project to install two new 500,000-gallon tanks that will increase Grower's Co-Op's storage capacity during the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency meeting Tuesday. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

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 employ 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.


In other IDA business, the board approved increasing the sales tax exemption for the redevelopment of Cockaigne Resort. Carol Rasmussen, IDA business development manager, said the owners of Cockaigne had originally asked for $180,000 in sales tax exemption when the IDA board approved financial assistance for the project. They would like to increase the sales tax exemption by $75,000 to a total of $255,000. She said the resort is open, with some snowmobile events being held during the winter. She added that Cockaign Pub is open to the public.


The IDA board also approved a resolution to increase the mortgage recording tax exemption by an additional $21,000 for the Roberts Road Freezer project for Fieldbrook Foods in Dunkirk. Richard Dixon, IDA chief financial officer, said Peter Krog and The Krog Group and Peter Wilson of Sonwil Distribution will own and operate the facility and will lease the facility to Fieldbrook Foods.

The $16 million project includes the newest state-of-the art design and technology incorporating an automated high-density racking system with 10,800 pallet positions at 20 degrees below zero and 10 loading docks at 40 degrees.

The revitalization project includes acquisition, remediation, new construction and equipping of a new 80,000-square-foot freezer warehouse. After decades as a contaminated eyesore in the City of Dunkirk, the dilapidated 167,400-square-foot Edgewood warehouse on Roberts Road has now been demolished to make way for a brand new cold storage facility to serve Fieldbrook Foods. Property remediation and abatement is being performed as part of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfield Cleanup Program. Site preparation is complete and concrete foundations are underway. The new facility will provide off-site storage for Fieldbrook Foods’ finished frozen dessert products.


Mark Geise, deputy county executive for economic development, said the IDA has signed a contract with Prospect Hill Consulting of Buffalo to create a strategy to redevelop Brownfield sites in the county. Last month, the Chautauqua County Legislature approved appropriating $16,000 toward the $20,000 project, with the IDA funding the remaining $4,000.


Geise also told the board the Project Grow Chautauqua hops/barley consultant study will take three to four months to prepare. He said the cost for the consultant is $120,000, with Chris Lacorata, who has 35 years experience in strategic development, providing $65,000 while the county, IDA and local foundations funded the remaining $55,000.

In February, Lacorata gave a presentation to the legislature Planning and Economic Development Committee about a new concept called Project Grow Chautauqua that could be the start of growing hops and barley in the county. He has been working with a committee of local stakeholders, which includes the IDA, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Southern Tier West and the State University of New York at Fredonia, on the concept that would be a dual industry with the hops and barley being grown for both the craft brewing and spirits industry as well as for the healthy foods industry.


Geise gave an update on the Ripley Gateway/Commerce Center project. He said county officials have hired Clark Patterson Lee to create a concept for the welcome center along the New York state border. In September, the legislature approved funding $45,000 for a study to create the Riply Gateway/Commerce Center. in September, George Borrello, county executive, said the gateway would be a welcoming center that would be a tourist attraction, not just a place where people can find maps. He said the plan is to have a grander scale gateway for the county and the state, which would be similar to Tamarack, a tourist attraction in West Virginia that highlights products and produce made in the state.