CANAJOHARIE — The Montgomery County Business Development Center received a check for $300,000 from National Grid this week, part of a grant to help pay for the cost of remediating the eastern side of the former Beech-Nut baby food plant in Canajoharie.
The funding is part of a combined $6.5 million in state and private sector economic development grants received by the county and the village for the clean up of the 19-acre site, which has been dubbed project Exit 29 in reference to the nearby New York state Thruway exit.
“These funds help us continue to build momentum at the site,” said Ken Rose, CEO of the Montgomery County Business Development Center. “We are grateful for National Grid’s support because it moves us closer to our goal of readying this site for significant private investment that will revitalize Canajoharie [and] boost Montgomery [County]’s economy.”
The Montgomery County Legislature on Oct. 22 hired Niagara County-based Apollo Dismantling Services for a cost not to exceed $3.44 million for environmental cleaning, asbestos abatement and bridge removal at the site.
The rules of the National Grid Brownfield Redevelopment Grant limit the amount of funding to no more than 25 percent of the full cost of utility-related infrastructure improvements and other costs that are necessary for the redevelopment of a brownfield site or vacant building.
“It is crucial for economic development in upstate New York to be able to rehabilitate former properties and buildings for future use,” National Grid Regional Executive Laurie Poltynski said. “National Grid provides funding to projects that find new life in vacant facilities and we are proud to be a part of building the future of this important site.”
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort has made redevelopment of the former Beech-Nut site one of the priority economic development projects for his administration. The location was once the main employer and largest taxpayer and utility user in the village of Canajoharie.
“We’re going to ensure this site is an economic engine once again,” Ossenfort said. “Partnering with local officials and the [Montgomery County Business Development Center], we’ve been able to secure funding opportunities like this to advance our efforts. We thank National Grid for its support of our redevelopment efforts.”
Montgomery County foreclosed on the vacant plant in 2017 after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to release $4 million worth of liens on the property, in exchange for being reimbursed for the money spent by the agency if and when the county sells portions of the property.
Prior to that, Beech-Nut parent company Switzerland-based Hero AG sold it in 2013 to private developers when the company relocated Beech-Nut’s North American headquarters to the town of Florida Business Park. The private developers stripped the site of its valuable copper pipes, started an expensive asbestos abatement, but then abandoned it, leaving a huge mess for the village and county.
In March 2018, the state granted Montgomery County a “special project” $6 million Restore New York Grant to help the county rehabilitate the abandoned baby food plant.
Ossenfort said state economic development officials have expressed the desire to “make good” on the state’s commitment to helping the people in the village deal with the repercussions of Beech-Nut’s departure. State grant money helped Hero AG relocate to the town of Florida.
Montgomery County used the grant funding to hire Binghamton-based demolition contractor Gorick in January to take down most of the remaining structures on the eastern half of the site and to do asbestos removal, at a cost of $953,000. The county hired Buffalo-based LiRo Engineers for $475,000 in July 2018 to write the bid specifications for the demolition, and Gorick came in at the best price.
Rose, his department, and the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency (MCIDA) also have been working to market the site. The MCIDA paid $30,000 to Amsterdam-based Engines of Creation to design a website to market the site, exit29project.com.
Montgomery County in October applied for a $1.3 million state Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) grant on behalf of a company called Arouca Farms, which has proposed building a $6 million hemp processing plant on part of the eastern part of the property. The project would aim toward employing 10 to 20 people, but is contingent upon receiving the state grant. State CFA grants are typically announced in December.