Medical Marijuana Plant Approved for Tryon in Fulton County

medical marijuana to be one of the first manufacturing operations at Tryon Technology Park

Medical Marijuana Plant Approved for Tryon Technology Park in Fulton County

Fulton County will host the manufacturing operations for one of five organizations given health department permission today for the production and sale of medical marijuana in New York State.

“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in the implementation of New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a written statement. “The five organizations selected for registration today showed, through a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation process, they are best suited to produce and provide quality medical marijuana to eligible New Yorkers in need, and to comply with New York’s strict program requirements.”

ESHS is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Vireo Health LLC, a medical cannabis company which works to “insert standard medical, scientific, business and operational principles into the medical cannabis industry, which often lacks the expertise to meet specific scientific and medical standards,” according to its website. Kyle Kingsley is the CEO of both Empire State Health Solutions and Vireo Health.

Tryon Site in Fulton County NY

The first phase of the medical marijuana project involves renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on the west side of the Tryon Technology Park for grow rooms, security and offices.

 

The first phase of their project involves renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on the west side of the Tryon facility for grow rooms, security and offices.  The second phase would be the first greenhouse, and the third phase, scheduled for this fall, would be to develop additional facilities around the greenhouse.

ESHS plans to start with 20 employees in Fulton County – with an average starting wage of $22 – adding another 20 by the end of the year. When the facility is fully operational in October 2016 there could be as many as 100 unionized workers, according to Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty. The average worker would start at $22 per hour, he said.

Three top staff have already been hired, including a head horticulturalist from Austin, Texas. The company is advertising locally for some of the key entry-level positions.

While New York is one of the largest states to embrace the drug’s use for medical purposes, it is hardly the first: 22 other states as well as the District of Columbia allow some form of medical marijuana,

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a national drug reform group, 22 states and the District of Columbia have changed their laws to allow the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes. California was the first in 1996.

Gov. Cuomo’s opposed partial marijuana legalization when he campaigned for governor in 2010, and blocked attempts by lawmakers to create a medical marijuana program in 2011. In early 2014, however, he proposed his own plan to make the drug available at select hospitals across the state. That plan was opposed as too restrictive by advocates of patients likely to benefit from the pain-relieving affects of marijuana, such as those with cancers, seizure disorders and AIDS.

Cuomo’s next proposal, the Compassionate Care Act, also kept restrictions in place – such as barring the administration of the drug by smoking. New York producers will create alternate methods of  using the drug, including a vaporized delivery system similar to an e-cigarette.

Times Union: NY yogurt industry uses clout

Read Story in Albany Times Union
Reprinted here with permission

NY yogurt industry, including Chobani, plays its D.C. cards

Chobani, other makers, have friends in high places in jobs move
By Dan Freedman, Times Union
Saturday, July 4, 2015

Excerpt:

And although Greek yogurt by itself isn’t enough to totally lift New York’s dairy industry out of the doldrums, its milk-intensive production process has given farmers and milk producers a needed cushion against the vagaries of supply and demand.

In the key period between 2008 and 2013, milk used to make yogurt in New York went from 158 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds, a seven-fold increase. The state saw a 2 percent rise in milk production last year, and it went from being the nation’s No. 4 dairy state in 2012 to No. 3 today.

Washington

When Russia blocked delivery of creamy Chobani Greek yogurt to the Sochi Winter Olympics last year, both of New York’s senators swung into action.

Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand phoned anyone and everyone who could help free up the 5,000 single-serve containers in cold storage atNewark Liberty Airport in New Jersey.

“Chobani Yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes and media workers,” Schumer said in a news release.

Yogurt factory worker upstate New York

(Brady Dillsworth/Bloomberg)

Ultimately, time ran out and the yogurt was donated to food banks in the New York metropolitan area. Schumer called it “a silver — or gold — lining.”

Although unsuccessful, the effort illustrated the appeal of upstate New York’s Greek yogurt industry in general, and Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya in particular, to Washington’s political world.

Practically unheard of a decade ago, Greek yogurt has taken the dairy-consumer world by storm, from about 2.5 percent of yogurt sales in 2008 to nearly 36 percent this year. And the bulk of the industry is in the upstate dairy belt. Among them: Chobani in South Edmeston, Chenango County; Fage in Johnstown, Fulton County, Muller Quaker Dairy in Batavia, Genesee County; and Buffalo-based Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., which markets as Upstate Farms.

For the state, Greek yogurt is more than just a success story. It’s a win-win tale of economic redemption, the industrial phoenix risen from the ashes of closed-down factories in small- and medium-sized towns and cities across the state.

From 2011 to 2014, the job count at New York’s dairy manufacturers rose by 1,500 to 9,570, according to data from the state Department of Labor. In the same time frame, overall manufacturing jobs in New York dropped by 1 percent. Chobani employs more than 1,000 at its plant and in an office suite in nearby Norwich.

And although Greek yogurt by itself isn’t enough to totally lift New York’s dairy industry out of the doldrums, its milk-intensive production process has given farmers and milk producers a needed cushion against the vagaries of supply and demand.

In the key period between 2008 and 2013, milk used to make yogurt in New York went from 158 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds, a seven-fold increase. The state saw a 2 percent rise in milk production last year, and it went from being the nation’s No. 4 dairy state in 2012 to No. 3 today.

Ulukaya’s own story embodies the entire industry’s aspirations, and goes a long way toward explaining the 43-year-old Chobani founder’s appeal to political figures.

Yogurt truck at milk tanks, upstate New York

Heather Ainsworth/The New York Times)

An ethnically Kurdish immigrant from Eastern Turkey, Ulukaya arrived in the U.S. in 1994 with little other than ambition to live the American dream and memories of the thick, delicious yogurt he grew up eating. In 2005, he received a junk mail flier advertising sale of a closed Kraft yogurt plant in the South Edmeston-New Berlin area. An $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration’s Albany office helped him buy the plant in 2005 and he began testing and marketing his Greek-style yogurt.

He named it Chobani, Turkish for “shepherd,” and shipped the first batch to supermarkets in 2007. Five years later, Chobani was booking more than $1 billion in sales.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to get in on the act.

“This is a new day,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in convening a “yogurt summit” in Albany in 2012. One booster, state Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, said the “yogurt empire” was New York state agriculture’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley.

“It’s an astonishing story … it’s an amazing story … it’s breathtaking,” effused former President Bill Clinton during a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative panel discussion featuring Ulukaya.

In the discussion, Ulukaya extolled the virtues of starting up a manufacturing plant in small-town New York. “If you’re a start-up, you don’t have to be in a big city” like New York of San Francisco, he said. “You could be in small town and still be cool.”

worker inspecting yogurt containers in upstate New York

(Heather Ainsworth/The New York Times)

Workers in the South Edmeston-New Berlin area “are proud of the product they’re making,” he said. “They’re part of the story.” Chobani boasts of giving 10 percent of its profits to charitable causes and funding projects, from a local little league ball field to assistance for refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Andrew Novakovic, an agricultural economics professor at Cornell University who has studied Chobani and the Greek yogurt industry, said, “It’s a genuine American story that a Turkish-Kurdish immigrant could become rich selling Greek yogurt. The cultural ironies of that are amazing.”

With encouragement from Schumer and Gillibrand, Ulukaya and other New York Greek yogurt players entered the Washington fray in 2012. They wanted to get into the USDA’s $15 billion school lunch, breakfast and summer food programs.

But access to those programs is more than just a matter of a senator making a phone call to the secretary of agriculture. Federal regulations spell out a lengthy bureaucratic process for gaining admission.

Ulukaya and Chobani took the lead, enlisting a lobbying firm, Cornerstone Government, and the National Yogurt Association to help them through the technicalities. Agriculture experts on the staffs of Gillibrand and Schumer pitched in as well.

Collectively, they helped Chobani and the industry as a whole navigate through requirements such as getting a “Commercial Item Description” for yogurt.

Ultimately, the process yielded an 11-page document that doesn’t include the word “Greek” but does specify a “high-protein” style that is “strained” —a reference to Greek yogurt’s process, which requires 3 pounds of milk for every pound of yogurt, which is triple the ratio for regular yogurt.

As chronicled in Schumer’s news releases, the USDA in 2013 committed to a pilot program in New York and three other states to testing Greek yogurt’s acceptance in subsidized school-meal programs.

In 2014, USDA expanded the pilot to a total of 12 states. In April, it announced Greek yogurt would be an option for schools nationwide.

Schumer and Gillibrand are accustomed to advocating for New York businesses. But each said that Greek yogurt represented a special case of a nutritious product gaining wide acceptance and bringing employment to economically depressed portions of upstate, as well as a lifeline to dairy farmers.

“When Greek yogurt first appeared, I said to myself, ‘This is an opportunity to help dairy,'” Schumer said. “I met with the heads of Fage and Chobani and said, ‘What (can) I do to help?'”

yogurt factory production line worker

(Brady Dillsworth/Bloomberg)

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee who’s well-versed in the intricacies of dairy, said the Greek yogurt story appealed to her as the mother of two young children.

Gillibrand said her oldest child, 11-year-old Theo, takes a Chobani serving to school as part of lunch; she stocks it in her Senate office refrigerator.

“If you travel across upstate, you’ll see we’ve lost a lot of small dairies over past decade,” she said. “This is one answer to that reduction. Greek yogurt is very much a symbol of ‘Made in America.'”

Not all of Greek yogurt’s attempts to penetrate Washington’s walls have been successful. The two senators plus the Yogurt Association and Cornerstone have worked on getting USDA to recognize Greek yogurt’s protein boost and give it more generous crediting toward fulfillment of the school programs’ nutrition requirements.

The formula is complicated, but with a “crediting standard” adjustment to reflect its higher protein content compared to traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt would prove to be more affordable for school food service managers.

So far, the USDA has turned them down.

In a letter to Gillibrand last year, the USDA said giving Greek yogurt extra credit for higher protein would be “inconsistent” with crediting “similar foods in a uniform manner” — in other words: If they do it for one, they’d have to do it for all.

For Chobani, access to USDA school meal programs so far has not been hugely profitable.

“We did not put it through the lens of profit and loss, black and white, like a big food company would do,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing officer for Chobani. “We looked at it as the right thing to do for kids in America.”

By some accounts, Chobani has become the victim of its own success. Industry titans like Dannon and Yoplait have responded with Greek yogurts of their own, diminishing Chobani’s market domination.

Chobani got financing from a private equity fund that, according to some news reports, was pressuring Ulukaya to step aside for a new CEO more accustomed to running a worldwide operation.

McGuinness dismissed the stories and said, “Our best days are yet to come.”

Chobani’s growth is up year-by-year and its curve this year is ahead of projections, he said. The company plans to unveil 15 new products in the next two weeks.

Ulukaya “remains and will continue to be chairman and CEO,” McGuinness added.

According to lobbying disclosure reports on file on Capitol Hill, Chobani since 2012 has spent $420,000 on Cornerstone, which bills itself as a bipartisan firm whose lobbyists have deep experience in federal agencies and congressional offices.

But just last month, Chobani abruptly severed its ties with Cornerstone.

“While we are disappointed to no longer be representing Chobani, the Cornerstone team, in addition to thoroughly enjoying the consumption of Chobani’s fine products over the last three years, is proud of our work assisting the company in advancing their public policy goals,” said lead Cornerstone lobbyist Jim Richards, who previously served in the USDA during the George W. Bush administration and worked for Republican chairmen of the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee.

Renovating the Lobby

Since 2013, Chobani also has spent $90,000 on Liz Robbins Associates, whose namesake is a veteran lobbyist best known for her close ties to the Clintons. Robbins has donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation and accompanied Bill and Chelsea Clinton on a nine-day trip in April to Africa.

The Clintons have been guests at Robbins’ home in East Hampton on Long Island, and Bill and Hillary Clinton gave Robbins hugs at a 2013 SeriousFun Children’s Network event honoring her.

It is not clear what, if any, lobbying work Robbins has done for Chobani. A log of Gillibrand’s visitors in Washington shows a 2013 meeting with Chobani CFO Jim McConeghy, in which Cornerstone’s Richards also participated. The same log yielded no comparable meeting involving Robbins.

Robbins did not respond to interview requests.

Asked whether hiring Robbins was a way to maintain relations with the Clintons, McGuinness said, “There’s no connection there.”

But others in New York’s political circles say ultimately that link could prove beneficial.

“What smarter move is there than hiring someone close to the Clintons?” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran lobbyist and political consultant based in New York City.

“Being effective requires relationships and she has the one the company will need should Secretary Clinton become president.”

dan@hearstdc.com • @danfreedma

 

Medical Marijuana Site Plan Approved for Tryon

The Fulton County Planning Board has approved the site plan for a proposed 208,000-square-foot medical marijuana manufacturing facility at the Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center.

The proposal is a significant step toward transforming the 515-acre facility into a biomedical research and manufacturing center. New York State turned the facility, a former state youth detention center, over to the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) for redevelopment in 2013.

If Empire State Health Solutions (ESHS) receives a state license to make medical marijuana, it plans to build greenhouses, laboratory space, offices and a manufacturing and processing area at Tryon. Registered as a New York State limited liability corporation, ESHS would be the first tenant in the technology park.

ESHS is a subsidiary of Minnesota-based Vireo Health LLC, a medical cannabis company which works to “insert standard medical, scientific, business and operational principles into the medical cannabis industry, which often lacks the expertise to meet specific scientific and medical standards,” according to its website. Kyle Kingsley is the CEO of both Empire State Health Solutions and Vireo Health.

If ESHS wins one of the licenses, the first phase of their project would involve renovating and retrofitting one of the existing buildings on 20 acres on west side of the site for grow rooms, security and offices.  The second phase would be the first greenhouse, and the third phase, scheduled for this fall, would be to develop additional facilities around the greenhouse.

A marijuana crop takes about eight weeks from germination to harvest under controlled climate conditions.  ESHS indicated it may need to build additional greenhouses as demand requires.

“If they’re issued a license in three or four weeks, they need to start dropping some seeds,” according to Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty at the June 16 Planning Board meeting at which the site plan was approved. “They want to start up by January.”

The New York State Department of Health began accepting applications for medical marijuana manufacturing licenses after the passage of the Compassionate Care Act last year to make marijuana available as a treatment to patients with certain serious illnesses. There are 43 applicants for the five licenses the state plans to issue by late July. Each licensee will be allowed to open four dispensaries throughout the state.

ESHS plans to start with 20 employees in Fulton County – with an average starting wage of $22 – adding another 20 by the end of the year. When the facility is fully operational in October 2016 there could be as many as 100 unionized workers, according Geraghty. The average worker would start at $22 per hour, he said.

Three top staff have already been hired, including a head horticulturalist from Austin, Texas. The company is advertising locally for some of the key entry-level positions.

Mike Mullis, of the site selection research company J.M. Mullis Inc., said  the Tryon facility is “one of the region’s greatest marketing assets.”

“It’s the best property I’ve seen in New York State,” Mullis said. “It has the topography access, buildings and acreage that will appeal to major companies. It’s all there, including a backup power generator, $5 million worth of barbed-wire security fencing and a road network that is amply sufficient for most companies.”

Some of the fencing was removed at Tryon when the youth detention facility was closed a few years ago. Empire would augment the existing fencing with 12-foot high barbed wire and at least 60 security cameras.

The ESHS facility would use solar panels to produce more than 1 million kilowatt hours of energy, a third of its requirements. Geothermal energy capabilities would be employed, as well as recycling of rainwater.

The Fulton County Center for Regional Growth sees biomedical technology as its next opportunity for luring a “cluster” of compatible – and even symbiotic – manufacturing companies to Fulton County. It has already worked to attract and support a cluster of food processing companies such as Fage Yogurt, Crystal Geyser Spring Water, Euphrates Cheese and Pata Negra old-world sausages.

No.22 Bicycles Opens Production Facility in Johnstown

A Toronto precision bicycle designer has opened a new U.S. bicycle frame-building production facility in Johnstown, NY, in a former textile plant called the Johnstown Knitting Mill.

No.22 Bicycle Company designs the kind of precision-crafted road and track bikes that inspire passionate obsession in their owners. When it was ready to expand from design into production, No.22 chose Johnstown, which has an inventory of affordable manufacturing spaces ripe for repurposing, as well as easy access to multiple methods of shipping.

The Johnstown Knitting Mill Company was a large employer in Fulton County throughout the entire 20th century, manufacturing knitted goods and work glove cloth. By 2000, the Johnstown Knitting Mill Company succumbed to the financial stresses of foreign competition and closed after more than 100 years.

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The industrial-age mill at 309 West Montgomery Street was renovated five years ago to accommodate multiple tenants, making it a flexible choice for the young and growing bicycle company, which was founded in 2012.

A Ready Workforce

No. 22 Bicycle Co. Production facility in Johnstown, NY;The location was attractive, but it was the availability of talent that drew the Canadians to upstate New York. No.22 hired three of the craftsmen who had been responsible for making the now-defunct Serotta company in Saratoga Springs the bicycle industry benchmark for build and finish quality.

The 40-year-old Serotta was sucked into the December 2014 bankruptcy of Divine Cycling Group, a private equity firm formed in 2012 to acquire Serotta and other high-end bike makers. A new company, Saratoga Frameworks, was promptly formed to try to keep the craftsmen working, but financial and legal complications forced it to close six months later.

“There are only a couple of places in the world that have experience with high-end titanium bikes, ” said Mike Smith, who founded No.22 with partner Bryce Gracey. No.22 had been having its designs produced by a large Tennessee manufacturer. In an effort to move their products upmarket, they had started to shift production work to Saratoga Frameworks.

 “The talent pool is 100 percent of the reason we’re in Johnstown,” Smith said. “When we were looking at setting up the facility, we were looking for a place that was close to the employees we wanted.”

Scott Hock, No.22’s new director of operations for the production facility, is a Johnstown native. The Canadian partners contacted real estate agent Clayton Sitterley and began to tour vacant Fulton County manufacturing buildings of all shapes and sizes, from modern industrial parks to old glove factories.

“There’s no shortage of nice space, and the rents are extremely affordable,” Smith said. “What we really loved about the Knitting Mill is the character of the space. It’s a beautiful building. There are hardwood floors and these big, beautiful windows. You can’t help it when you walk through there, you want to hatch an idea to be able to take advantage of it.”

No.22 has outfitted 4,500 square feet in the 100,000-square-foot Johnstown mill with a mix of vintage and new equipment, such as a bank of 50-year-old US-made Bridgeport vertical mills for precision mitering and a new HAAS CNC lathe to remove minuscule flecks of titanium from the frame tubes for a precise fit.

Hock, head welder Frank Cenchitz, welder Bryar Sesselman, and a newer hire named Sam Dries are producing No.22’s Great Divide titanium road bike, Broken Arrow cylocross cross-country racing bike and Little Wing track bike, as well as working under contract to produce high-end frames for other brands. Great Divide and Broken Arrow bikes start at $4,800 and $5,500 respectively.

 A new No.22 race-focused model, The Reactor, was introduced at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Kentucky in March, and it took home the blue ribbon for best cyclocross bike. The Reactor frame kit (not a complete bike) starts at $5,200.

Smith says No.22’s sales will probably triple this year over last. The Knitting Mill offers room to grow, and Smith thinks the company may need to expand soon. He likes the fact that the tenant across the hall is a high-end machine shop, making it convenient to order supplies – “May I borrow a cup of titanium, please?”

The incubator-style nature of the Mill opens a lot of different future scenarios for either expansion or building a community of businesses with compatible interests. No.22’s production team was thrilled when a craft brewery briefly made plans to open in part of the building, but that ended up not happening.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with this team as the long-term manufacturing home for our bikes,” Smith said. “We have been building our brand around the resurgence of North American craftsmanship, and the frames that Scott, Frank and their colleagues are able to build have us thrilled about this relationship. We feel privileged to be working with them to produce bikes that we can all be proud of.”

Benson’s Opens in Johnstown with FCCRG Loan

benson's logoJOHNSTOWN – Saratoga County-based Benson’s Pet Center plans to open an outlet in Johnstown in April, with the help of a $75,000, five-year loan from the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.

The Johnstown store,  at 213 N. Comrie Ave., will be the sixth site in the Benson’s chain, which was opened in 1992 by Frank Kramer. The other stores are in Saratoga Springs, Colonie, Clifton Park, Queensbury and Pittsfield, Mass. According to Benson’s website, in addition to being a “full-line pet supply store,” the store will also sell small animals such as birds, fish, rodents and reptiles.

“They’re looking at possibly 15 jobs,” FCCRG CEO Ron Peters said. “I’m glad they’re here.”

The website adds: “Benson’s Pet Center does not sell cats or dogs because we want to help find homes for the numerous animals that have been rescued by the many groups and shelters that we work with. We at Benson’s Pet Center encourage our customers to look into adoption when looking for a new family pet.”

Gloversville Library Gets Pulitzer Prize winner’s support

gloversville-library-NY

An extensive article in the New York Times about Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo’s support of the Gloversville Free Library is boosting the historic institution’s efforts at renovation and reinvention.

Russo, who grew up in Fulton County, has used Gloversville and his impressions of it for such novels as “Empire Falls,” “Nobody’s Fool” and “Mohawk,” even when the books were ostensibly set in a different fictional location.

He grew up going to the Gloversville library, he told the New York Times; “I have such fond memories of the place, going there Saturday mornings with my grandfather or mother, who would wait forever for me to pick books. I just have this feeling that if it weren’t for the Gloversville Free Library that I probably would not be a writer.”

$2.4 Million Raised So Far

Local fundraising efforts have so far raised $2.4 million of the $7 million needed for the first-ever renovation of the 111-year-old Beaux Arts building. Town leaders have started fund drives for capital repairs to the library three times in recent decades – in the 1970s, 1995 and 2003, but the efforts did not produce enough donations for the job.

“This time we’re not giving up,” Barbara Madonna, the library’s executive director, told NYT reporter Steven Greenhouse. “We need to do this renovation for the kids. A library is so important for them. And we need to do this as a catalyst to lift the whole town.”


“I just have this feeling that if it weren’t for the Gloversville Free Library that I probably would not be a writer.” — Pulitzer Prize Winning Novelist Richard Russo


Since the last fundraising effort, the library became an independent entity, rather than a department of the city government. It shifted its funding stream from the city budget to a direct tax approved by voters each year along with the Gloversville Enlarged School District budget. Those changes made the library’s funding more stable, allowing it the breathing space to pursue a new capital campaign.

The library’s boiler is 100 years old, the wood shelving is decrepit, and the library has neither a wheelchair ramp nor air-conditioning. But architecturally, it is a shining jewel smack dab in the center of Gloversville’s downtown. It was built with a $50,000 donation by steel baron Andrew Carnegie in 1904. Its soaring 35-foot-tall lobby is the focal point of a vibrant community haven that already attracts about 9,000 visitors a month for library transactions, toddler story times, reading and knitting groups and “unplugged” activities for teenagers.

In addition to replacing the century-old boiler with forced air HVAC, the restoration project includes upgrades to plumbing, electrical and lighting systems, installing an elevator for access to all three floors (only one floor is currently used) and making the building handicapped accessible.  A cozy reading room, a children’s section with atrium windows, five public meeting rooms and a concert space are envisioned.

richard-russo

“One reason Mr. Russo is so interested in the renovation is there’s very little place for children these days outside of school,” said Elizabeth Batchelor, a chairwoman of the fund-raising campaign, told the NYT.  “For many kids, a library can be a ladder out of poverty.”

According to a story in The Daily Gazette of Schenectady, the New York Times article sparked a renewed interest in the fundraising campaign from individuals and potentially, from a foundation.

Russo’s role as honorary chairman is largely symbolic – he lives in Maine and is working on his next novel. But his involvement has raised the project’s profile beyond the 15,000 residents of Gloversville to a national audience that may be willing to support the library’s mission and the preservation of the historic building.

Mohawk Valley Land Bank is Encouraged

Herkimer County has officially encouraged a plan to create a six-county, not-for-profit corporation that would be allowed to acquire and improve derelict properties.

The proposed land bank would have the power to acquire vacant sites, rundown and abandoned properties and tax delinquent parcels. It would also have the power to borrow money to secure the sites and find buyers interested in making the properties productive.KMVB LOGO

Under a state law enacted in 2011, any tax district with foreclosure powers is eligible to form a not-for-profit land bank with approval from the state’s urban development corporation. The idea behind a Mohawk Valley Land Bank is that a regional public authority would have more focus and greater resources to make sure the properties aren’t disposed of at far less than they are worth. The authority could also work with buyers to make sure the properties are secured and redeveloped, rather than persisting in dereliction and tax delinquency.

The Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB) committee of the Mohawk Valley Economic Development District has so far held three informational meetings in Johnstown, Herkimer and Oneonta exploring the creation of a land bank to include Fulton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie counties.  A proposed land bank is one of four parts of KMVB’s anti-blight campaign, which also encompasses the use of the Keep America Beautiful Community Appearance Index, the Great American Cleanup and Adopt a Spot.

The Herkimer County Legislature passed a resolution Feb. 18 to encourage continued investigation of forming a regional land bank. According to the MVEDD, state legislation allows for 20 land banks in New York, and 11 land banks have already been approved. There are 120 land banks in the nation.

On Tuesday, March 3, the group will hold an informational meeting at SUNY Oneonta’s Red Dragon Theater, 108 Ravine Parkway, Oneonta. All meetings begin at 6:30 PM.

“Blight is a problem in communities everywhere, and Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful (KMVB) is doing something about it,” said Bob Albrecht, chair of the KMVB Board of Directors.

Steve Smith, executive director of MVEDD, said, “Municipalities are looking for help in dealing with blight, whether it is rubbish along the streets or abandoned houses. We think our six-county network together with KMVB volunteers can make a difference.”

 For more information

Mohawk Valley Economic Development District

Keep Mohawk Valley Beautiful’s Facebook page

New York State Land Banks: Combating Blight and Vacancy in New York Communities – PDF

Vacant Properties: The True Costs to Communities – PDF

2011 New York State Land Bank Enabling Legislation – PDF

Land Bank Guidelines -PDF

 

Historic Johnstown Downtown Getting Facelift

main street johnstown 1

Seven storefronts in Johnstown’s historic downtown will benefit from shares of a $200,000 funding pool from the NY Main Street Grant Program, which provides financial resources and technical assistance to improve traditional main streets and neighborhoods. City leaders have been working with citizens and architects on details of what should be encouraged and allowed with facade renovations to preserve the historical charm of the city.

Johnstown NY Sunset

Linda S. Joseph Inc., doing business as Vintage Cafe at 21 West Main Street, will receive $16,125 from the grant program toward a facade revitalization estimated to cost $26,500. Pending Planning Board review expected in March, the work would replace broken and missing bricks; remove plywood and curved details over the front door; replace the flashing at the top of the storefront’s cornice; replace a residence door and the front-entrance storm door; replace, paint and coat interior and exterior woodwork, galvanized metal masonry; and improve the lighting.

In February, the city Planning Board approved a renovation for 18 West Main Street proposed by downtown property owner and former city councilman at large Bryan Marcucci. He plans to turn the property into a  restaurant and microbrewery called Black Tie Pub N Brew. Marcucci’s project has been awarded $31,850 through the NY Main Street Grant Program.

main st johnstown 2Jeff and Nick Kollar have submitted plans for a $33,000 remodel of first-floor storefronts at 1-5 W. Main St.,  $24,375 of which would be covered by a grant, subject to Planning Board review. Nick and Jeff Kollar own the building and Nick works for C.T. Male, one of the tenants. The other tenants are Ferguson & Foss Surveyors, Osborne Computers and C.W. Hair Design.

Helmut Philipp, an attorney with Brenner Group, LLC of Delmar, Albany County, received approval in February to transform 17 W. Main St. into apartments and a retail storefront. That project will receive $34,900 through the NY Main Street Grant Program. The finished building will have an 8-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall center window, a new cedar roof and freshly stained brick. Recessed lighting may be installed over the windows and doors.

Arthur Schrum and Douglas Town, will received $15,000 toward repairing, priming, painting and repointing the front facade of 128 W. Main St. as well as replacing and repairing the cellar entrance.

Laura Casamento will receive $15,000 to help fund a new entry door/trim; window repairs, exterior paint, and installation of three gas meters at On The Way Up.

Theresa Cook was granted $12,750 toward front and rear facade renovation, the installation of a rear fire escape, and the replacement of windows and electric wiring throughout 32 W. Main St.

The grant program is administered by the Office of Community Renewal with funds from the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation (HTFC) to units of local government, business improvement districts, and other not-for-profit organizations. The money is earmarked for revitalizing historic downtowns, mixed-use neighborhood commercial districts and village centers.

A Case for Spurring Rail Access in Fulton County, NY

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Fulton County manufacturers have ample access to easy transportation through proximity to the NY State Thruway, airports, and the Port of Albany, but shipping could be even more efficient with rail linkage from the manufacturing facilities to the vast network of rails spanning the East Coast.

In 2013, businesses invested $456.8 million in new or expanded rail-served facilities on CSX and its connecting regional and short lines. CSX owns the Mohawk Subdivision, which runs from Amsterdam to Syracuse along the former New York Central Railroad main line. Those lines continue to the Port of Albany and connect to tracks all the way down to Florida and across the western states.

Connecting CSX main lines to existing industrial sites in Fulton County would make the sites in the parks even more desirable to new and existing facilities.

Direct or shared industrial rail access line spurs are usually built through collaborations between businesses and  state/local economic development and governmental agencies.

Other New York communities have received state and federal funding for rail access spur projects. For example:

  • In 2010, Riverhead, NY, was awarded $4.8 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, plus additional state funds to restore a short rail line connecting a 2,000-acre industrial park that the town took over from the defense contractor Grumman Corp., which ceased operations at the site in the 1990s.
  • In 2012, the New York Department of State’s Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) granted The Business Corporation for a Greater Massena $125,000 to partially fund a spur on the existing CSX St. Lawrence Subdivision to service the Curran Renewable Energy wood pellet plant and AgPro’s soybean processing facility.
  • In 2013, the Port of Oswego Authority was awarded $192,000 from NBRC to construct a rail spur and additional rail car storage on the only intermodal deepwater port in New York State , Lake Ontario. The project directly benefitted the Novelis Aluminum Plant in Scriba, NY, which expanded and added 100 jobs, as well as grain producers in Central New York.

How A Rail Access Sidetrack is Born

CSX’s Industrial Development Group works with companies to expand its rail network to individually serve new or existing facilities. Each year it works with 100-150 companies, bringing rail lines to existing facilities.

The process is pretty seamless: the company works alongside a Site Design Manager to coordinate the project and design the new private sidetrack, which is then reviewed internally by CSX’s Operating and Engineering Department. Each new line would have its own Private Sidetrack Agreement detailing ownership, construction and maintenance, as well as outlining the relationship between the facility and CSX.

The benefits are numerous:

 Simpler logistics: Shipments that leave by rail directly from the facility are easy to track, have less handling time and avoid any time lost due to unforeseen issues by highway shipping. CSX offers tracking of shipments, digital reporting and other ways to monitor shipments that truck shipping doesn’t allow.

Cost-Effective Shipping: A multi-modal organization like CSX keeps costs under one roof, monitored and minimized.

Better for the Environment:  If you’ve missed any of CSX’s commercials in the past few years, you might not know that rail transportation uses a tiny fraction of the fuel to cover long distances, vs. the immense amounts of fuel required by highway freight trucks.

Safer:  According to data compiled by the non partisan Congressional Research Service, from 1996 to 2007 railroads consistently spilled less crude oil per ton-mile transported than other modes of land transportation.

Access: CSX operates and maintains more than 2,800 miles of track, and invested more than $13.6 million in 2013 in its New York network.

 

Outdoor Writers Land at The Fly Shack and other Fulton County gems

Three times in the last five years, the New York State Outdoor Writers’ Association has chosen Fulton County, NY as its retreat destination.

“If there was an underlying theme to this year’s Spring Safari, it is that we were in a place that has a multitude of offerings, both in and away from the waters, forests and fields,” wrote Dan Ladd, who writes the Hunting and Fishing Report for the Plattsburgh Press Republican, is the outdoors editor of the Glens Falls Chronicle and the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks.”

The NYSOWA, made up of outdoor media folk, visited a number of local retailers specializing in outdoor sporting, putting a spotlight on Fulton County’s small businesses and how they contribute to the county’s identity as a unique recreational hotspot. Among these retailers was The Fly Shack, a fly fishing shop in downtown Gloversville.the fly shack

The Fly Shack carries a vast selection of flies for trout, bass, salmon, and saltwater fish; fly tying accessories and boxes; waders, boots, vests and other gear; accessories; rods, books and DVDs. With a busy online shop, it brings a diverse inventory to fishing enthusiasts in the region and beyond.

The writers fished for walleye, trout and pike on the Great Sacandaga Reservoir; bass and rainbow trout on Pecks Lake, and also visited the state campground at Caroga Lake and a private resort on Pine Lake.

They rolled out of bed one morning at 2:30 a.m. to hunt wild turkey in farm country. They also attended the unveiling of a NYSOWA display at the Wildlife Sports and Educational Museum in Vail Mills, just outside Broadalbin and toured the museum’s collection of replica record-breaking whitetail bucks.WildlifeSportsMuseum

Frank’s Gun Shop a family-run retailer in Mayfield, sprang for a pizza party for the writers, before they continued to Taylor Made in Gloversville, a factory that employs more than 200 people making accessories for boating and other industries.