CANAJOHARIE -- The Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council is applying for $22 million in state funding for 30 economic development projects, including $1.3 million for a proposed hemp processing plant to be built at the former Beech-Nut baby food factory and $1.7 million to renovate the "Parrot House" in the village of Schoharie.
This year marks the ninth round of New York state's annual Consolidated Funding Application economic development grant process. Ten regions around the state annually participate in a competitive process, all vying for $750 million in grants, subsidies and tax incentives.
The MVRED is co-chaired this year by SUNY Cobleskill President Marion Terenzio and Lawrence Gilroy III, president of Gilroy, Kernan, and Gilroy. The council provided the state with a 66-page 2019 Progress Report this week, which included the application for the 30 new projects.
The state typically announces which projects will be funded in December.
The progress report included a look back at the last eight rounds of the economic development program, which has resulted in 630 projects funded in the Mohawk Valley totaling $286.8 million in awards helping to fund $1.78 billion worth of projects, the rest paid by private sector investment, a ratio of 6 to 1.
Of the 30 MVRED project applications this year Montgomery County accounts for four, Schoharie County has two and Fulton County has one. Oneida County had the most of any Mohawk Valley county with 14.
• $1.3 million to renovate part of the former Beech-Nut baby food plant to build a hemp processing plant. Arouca Farms of Canajoharie is applying for the money to help them purchase and renovate part of the eastern side of the former baby food factory so it can build a $6 million hemp processing plant, which aims to employ 10 to 20 people.
Arouca Holdings CEO Sheldon Roberts, a UAlbany graduate who said his background is in real estate management in Manhattan, said he discovered the Beech-Nut location while he was purchasing a 106-acre farm on Blaine Road in Canajoharie. He said the spot is potentially an ideal location to build a hemp processing plant.
"We were taken aback by how this building was vacant, and we just fell in love with the town and we want to help revitalize it," Roberts said. Roberts said he's focused on trying to build his new Arouca Farms business, which is named after his father's home town in Trinidad, and he's decided that processing is the best place to start. He said he foresees eventually getting into the hemp growing business using his farm, and possibly creating a CBD oil retail product line, but for now he wants to build a full-service processing plant, capable of drying and making CBD oils at the old Beech-Nut location.
"Right now, with the hemp business, and the way the market is going we know there's a lot of hemp farmers, but there's not a lot of processors, so that's created a bottleneck," he said
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said the former Beech-Nut is strategically located for a processing plant, with easy access to the New York state thruway through Exit 29. The facility also has high water and sewer capacity, thanks to years of upgrades to the local village water filtration plant to accommodate Beech-Nut.
New York state last year granted Montgomery County a $6 million CFA grant to help the county rehabilitate the former baby food plant.
Rose said he's working with Arouca Farms on a possible purchase option agreement for part of the eastern side of the property, but he said Arouca's project is contingent on receiving the $1.3 million state grant.
• $1.2 million to help build a city of Amsterdam Community Center. This project includes rehabilitation of 149 East Main St. for use as a community center and construction of a new Recreation Center. The Community Center would serve as a communal hub for arts, education and recreation activities and will include a computer lab, an art gallery, a shared kitchen, and a space for variety of community activities.
• $800,000 for the Amsterdam Free Library for a renovation and expansion project to create a new business incubator and STEM education facility.
• $190,000 for Whispering Pines Preschool to help purchase and renovate the Clara S. Bacon Elementary School, 40 Henrietta Blvd., from the Greater Amsterdam School District for the purpose of retaining and expanding an existing program and staff providing child daycare. The district will be putting up a referendum to district voters to sell the facility to Whispering Pines for an announced sale price of $224,000.
• $1.7 million for the Parrott House Revitalization project. The building was built in 1870, had a long history as a restaurant and hotel, as well as being the largest building on Main Street in the village of Schoharie. Named for the mirrored glass etched with two parrots at its entrance, the building was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and has been unable to sustainably reopen since.
Julie Pacatte, the executive director for the Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corp. formed in January, said this is the first CFA application the new privately funded economic development agency has been involved with. She said rehabilitating the Parrot House would be a major boost to the village and to Schoharie County as a whole.
"The project would be to establish a farm-to-table restaurant and some commercial space on the first floor, with a boutique hotel on the upper two floors," she said. "Currently we need the lodging facilities, and we recognize that boutique-lodging is on-trend now. We have some beautiful investments in wedding venues that are within five to 10 minutes of the Parrot House that could certainly benefit from the lodging as well. The village serves as the county seat, and it has an opportunity for guests visiting Schoharie County, whether they're on county business, or just take in the attractions of the area. It's an ideal location."
• $90,000 for the Jefferson Main Street Development project for Jefferson Main St., LLC to rehabilitate an 1860 farmhouse the company has purchased in the hamlet of Jefferson, which it plans to restore and equip with a Middle Brook Stone Mill to grind flour, and a commercial kitchen to develop related products.
• $60,000 for a Fulton County Center for Regional Growth business incubator to be built at the CRG's West Fulton Street building, renovating 10,000 square feet of office space which will serve as incubator space for new startup businesses in Gloversville.