By Craig R. Clark
Great Lakes Cheese Co. Inc. plans to build a $505 million, state-of-the-art cheese factory in Allegany County.
The project will double current employment at the company’s outdated Cuba plant to 429, nearly double payroll to $21 million, double milk demand from the region’s dairy farmers to four million pounds a day, and add an estimated 600 resulting new agricultural jobs.
The cheese factory will result in more than $1 billion in investment in Western New York over the next 20 years, and is the most significant and beneficial project in our area in decades. The proposed Amazon warehouse on Grand Island was a $350 million project.
The cheese plant will have its own, 50,000-square-foot water treatment plant and be built to the highest environmental standards. Construction between 2021 and 2023 will create 240 new skilled trades jobs, with a peak workforce of 480.
We’re at the starting line and all that’s needed is for Great Lakes Cheese to acquire 229 acres on a site the company determined was ideal after considering 80 other nearby sites. The company put a limit of 30 minutes commuting time from the current plant in Cuba to the new one because it is so intent on retaining all the people now working there.
With these astounding benefits in mind, we recently moved to eminent domain to obtain the targeted land, which is part of 321 acres in the towns of Amity and Angelica with an assessed value of $189,500. Starting the eminent domain process brought the landowner to the negotiating table and the company offered a generous multi-million dollar price, which is under consideration
The land in question is not even in an agricultural district. It was removed during a 2006 review of the district at the landowner’s request. According to the district at the time:
“This large, mostly contiguous tract of land is located at the junction of I-86, State Rt. 19 and County Road 20. It was always anticipated that this was one of the few prime areas for economic development in the central section of the county and the farm owners originally purchased it with that in mind.“
Beyond the manufacturing jobs preserved and newly created – all the more crucial given recent closures around the region – the project will provide $20.7 million in property tax payments to municipalities and school districts the last five years of a 20-year property tax-exemption plan. During that same time period, the factory’s payroll will total at least $420 million.
In addition to Great Lakes Cheese – which can build its factory anywhere it chooses out of state – the ACIDA and the Allegany County Legislature, this project has bi-partisan support. This includes backing from Invest Buffalo Niagara, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., Dairy Farmers of America, the Southern Tier West Regional Planning & Development Board, along with many other residents and farmers.
Let’s not imperil this outstanding project quibbling over land costs. This new plant will benefit everyone in Allegany County, even the landowner.
Craig R. Clark is executive director of the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency.