A new location in Franklinville, NY is being considered for the dairy processing plant that has made headlines in Allegany County for most of this year. Great Lakes Cheese and a private real estate developer have filed an application with the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency. That county IDA plans to meet next Thursday to review the application for the proposed 500 million dollar facility.
Great Lakes Cheese recently called off plans to build the proposed dairy processing facility near Interstate 86 and Route 19, the “Crossroads” area in Allegany County. The projects collapse was a harsh blow to the entire planning and development operation in Allegany county. That disappointment included the Allegany County legislature who voted unanimously to file eminent domain action in order to pave the way for development.
The reason for that disappointing outcome wasn’t necessarily the lack of utilities or the legal complexities created by the eminent domain action. Allegany County IDA Executive Director Craig Clark used the common analogy, “a death by a thousand cuts.” Allegany County and the agencies that attempted to bring this development to fruition, put forth an honest effort that was commiserate with the development resources available. Those resources were simply not able to negotiate the dynamics and workload that a $500 million dollar development presents. That appears to the best explanation for those wondering “what happened?” in Allegany County.
“Allegany County is not equipped to bring in a 500 million dollar development, not even close,” quipped an international development professional close to the project. The same intricately involved source provided an analogy to school sports, comparing Allegany County to “a third-grade team playing against the varsity squad.”
Our team played hard and learned a lot but from the beginning every player was working against the odds. To use a football analogy, we even threw a final ‘hail Mary’ pass in a last ditch effort to make the deal happen via eminent domain.
Clearly the failure of the project did not result from the lack of effort by our professional development office or the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency. Based on the eminent domain action filed by the county leadership, the appetite for large scale development in Allegany county is strong. With an appetite for development and the people in place who are ready to work hard for those investments, its time to lick our wounds and get serious.
Major corporations like Great Lakes Cheese are constantly working on the next project in order to maintain profits and long term viability. Their development team surveys potential sites all over the United States on an ongoing basis. That experience paints a picture of how a multi-billion dollar corporation shops for development sites:
Typically these sites are ‘plug and play’, meaning major water, electric, and gas services are already installed. Some sites already have traffic lights, parking lots, and general infrastructure in place as well. These are the sites that major developers consider well before rural sites in Allegany County that still need to be acquired, not to mention equipped with the necessary utilities. Without sites that are ‘shovel ready’, Allegany County will remain on the bottom of the development destination list.
There really is only one logical reaction to the ‘Great Lakes Cheese Incident” in Allegany County: We need to invest in our ravenous appetite for job creating development in Allegany County. Our current effort has been clearly exposed as under-funded and without the resources needed to attract serious development.
Allegany County has millions of dollars in cash reserves and at least nine million dollars in federal Covid-19 related relief dollars yet to be allocated. Sales tax revenues continue to climb and many economists predict a strong economic recovery is on the way. Property values are dramatically rising in the post-pandemic economy. Our county government has the money to re-imagine our development strategy and take the professionals advice: Build it and they will come.
Major investment will flow into our economy if we provide what developers want: shovel-ready sites. That is a very expensive endeavor but has been underway around the Interstate 86 interchange in the years after the “Waterpark Affair.” Our local governments and IDA have worked hard on utility projects around the “Crossroads” interchange for years and were successful in facilitating the brand new Quicklee’s Travel Center. That progress can continue toward larger developments but only with a larger commitment toward our county development resources.
Read our previous reporting on the Great Lakes Cheese development: