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Property values just peaked, a mini-construction boom, and now Runnings

By Andrew Harris, photo by Mel Hunt

Wellsville has had its share of booms and busts, growth and loss. Near 1900 Wellsville was one of the wealthiest places on the planet, the oil business spawned huge growth prior to the industrial revolution.

That era gave birth to industrial powerhouses like Worthington/Turbodyne/Dresser and AirPreheater/ABB/Ljungstrom. When I was in grade school(I’m a WHS 1995 grad,) these facilities employed thousands with good paying jobs. In my opinion, NAFTA, and other world trade agreements doomed Wellsville to a fate of continual decline. Massive job losses, real estate values plummeted, Main Street businesses dried up, and our population took a nosedive.

The pandemic appears to have ushered in a new era. No one can find enough employees and wages have increased. Our real estate market just finished a big boom with many out-of-town buyers investing in and moving into Allegany County. The boom would have continued if we only had more proper housing inventory available. That hasn’t stopped commercial growth….

In Wellsville, on the Bolivar Road just west of the village line, two national franchises are building. Walgreens is in the process of building a new “drive thru” style store to compliment the Main Street full size store. Moving in with regional convenience store powerhouse, Quicklee’s, Canadian coffee king Tim Horton’s plans to be part of another new construction next to the new Walgreens. That new combination store is still in the planning phases but has wide support from local officials. Read more about that story here.

Arvos/Ljungstrom, formerly “Air-Preheater,” has announced several new contracts that caused the Wellsville facility on the Andover Road start hiring. The firm who once made Wellsville an international travel hub of sorts, is now investing in the clean energy market and intends to hire hundreds in the coming years. Fears of another major manufacturer closing down have gone with the wind energy prospects we announced late last year.

My sunny review of economic conditions in Wellsville could end with that but it just gets better.

Giant Food Mart, with a store in Wellsville and Cuba, was recently purchased by an Erie county firm who own and operate the “Market in the Square” grocery stores in West Seneca and North Tonawanda. In several conversations I have had with the new owners, they didn’t come to Allegany County without a careful calculation. They see growth and potential in Wellsville, Cuba, and Allegany county and are investing in that future. Read more about the new Giant Food Mart.

Our reporting on the purchase of the now-empty “Kmart building” at the Riverwalk Plaza by Minnesota based retailer Runnings is a great news on top of good news. It is the kind of news that is hard to overstate. ICYMI, read that exclusive reporting here.

A firm like Runnings, growing at a very stead pace over the years by carefully choosing where to expand, had good reasons for deciding on Wellsville. Sure the price was right and the demographic matches almost perfectly with the outdoor-life focused retailer. Nationally successful chains like Runnings make the decision to expand based on sales projections, the future. Just the fact that this growth oriented firm found Wellsville to be an ideal marketplace speaks volumes about our economic future.

When the store opens it will make an immediate impact on Wellsville, namely more vehicles and people. That immediately makes Wellsville more attractive to other potential businesses who use traffic data to make investment decisions.

Taxpayers, who have already benefited from almost constantly increasing sales tax revenues since the pandemic(aka the Amazon effect,) will get another shot in the arm. In Allegany County, taxable sales generate 8.5%, or $85,000 per $1,000,000 in sales. A ten million dollar Runnings store could add almost a million dollars per year to the county sales tax haul. Considering our conservative county government, that prospect could result in more property tax cuts. Investors, property owners, shoppers, and existing local businesses really like tax cuts. Particularly considering the overall reality that Allegany County, Wellsville in particular, is known for high taxes.

Once again, the pendulum is swinging back in our direction after decades of decline. Investors from Buffalo, Minnesota, Iowa, even Canada are considering Allegany County a good bet.

Like the wise local sage Pat Gay wrote on social media in response to this news, “entrepreneurs, start making your plans!”

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