Cattaraugus IDA granted tax breaks to $120 million in projects in 2020

Snow covers some of the solar panels at the Homerida Solar Farm on Homer Street, one of three in Olean. The Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency granted tax breaks to 12 solar projects worth nearly $100 million in 2020.

ELLICOTTVILLE — The Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency granted tax breaks to 19 projects worth more than $120 million this past year.

At the top of the 2020 list is the iconic Manny Hanny Bank building, which Savarino Development of Buffalo purchased from the Olean Urban Renewal Agency, and plans a $11.7 million renovation.

“It’s a very significant project for downtown Olean,” said Thomas Buffalante of Olean, the Industrial Development Agency chairman. “The IDA played a small part in the project which promises to be a big key to the city’s redevelopment.”

It is a good example of the IDA’s adaptive reuse policy of taking vacant buildings, renovating them and breathing new life into the buildings.

“It’s not good to have a vacant building like that in the downtown area,” Buffamante said. “I’m glad we could participate in that project.”

Corey Wiktor, IDA executive director, said Savarino formed Manny Hanny Development LLC to purchase and redevelop the more than 100-year-old building.

No plans for the first floor have been finalized, but the second floor will contain offices and a training center for the Council on Addiction and Recovery Services. The top four floors will house 20 market-rate apartments and four median-income apartments.

“Everyone’s happy about Manny Hanny,” Wiktor said. “To see this type of investment that will begin in earnest this coming year” is a good news story.

Savarino is looking for local contractors and subcontractors for the project, which is expected to take about 14 months, Wiktor said. “We are trying to maximize this as a local project.”

While the Manny Project is probably the most visible of the IDA’s adaptive reuse projects, it’s not the only one in Olean. Worthy Pharmacy in the former Jones Realty Group offices at 202 Main St., a $500,000 redevelopment, should be open by mid-January.

The former Standard Office Equipment building on East State Street is also being redeveloped by 3M Property LLC for ground floor retail and upper floor apartments.

In this year of COVID-19, the IDA also created a new tax exemption for new personal protective equipment manufacturers.

One company, Essential American Products of Ellicottville, is building an addition at Steelbound Brewery and Distillery to manufacture hand sanitizer and other PPE products. Partners are investing $1 million in the project.

Also in Ellicottville, Win-Sum Ski Corp., which owns Holiday Valley Resort, has asked for sales tax exemption for $7 million worth of projects and purchases. The biggest part of the Holiday Valley package is replacing the Yodeler ski lift with a more high-tech quad-chair that is in use on several other slopes including Mardi Gras. The resort also plans to purchase more automated snow guns as well as grooming and other equipment.

The biggest sector seeking and receiving IDA tax breaks was the solar energy sector. Of 19 projects the IDA gave inducements to in 2020, a dozen were solar projects ranging in value from $8 million to $11.5 million.

Three projects given the OK in 2020 were in Portville, three in Allegany, five in East Otto and one in Machias. Their total investment is about $100 million. The IDA offers a $6,000 per megawatt payment in lieu of taxes or P.I.L.O.T., which is divided among the county, school district and town or city. Olean had the county’s first three solar farms in the city.

The IDA will not approve a solar project without a letter of support from the local town government. The IDA also encourages community host agreements.

As with other projects the IDA grants tax breaks to, the agency seeks to maximize local contractors and suppliers, Wiktor said. “They are not real job creators,” he said of the solar projects, which get 25-year P.I.L.O.T.s. The larger picture goes beyond P.I.L.O.T. payments to municipalities.

For example, Jamestown Community College is gearing up to offer a certified program in solar installation, Wiktor pointed out.

Some have expressed concern about the amount of land the solar farms are gobbling up, but the IDA suggests they avoid agriculture districts and prime agricultural lands. There has been very little opposition so far to the 30- and 40-acre solar sites, Wiktor said. In places where homeowner concerns were expressed, the IDA requires town board approval before proceeding.

“It’s probably best to stay away from prime agricultural land,” Wiktor agreed.

The IDA follows up to see whether the solar developers contact local contractors and suppliers, Wiktor said. “There are a number of subcontractors that can do this work.” Lenders, he added, often require a certified contractor perform the work.

Since 2013, the IDA has assisted companies retain 3,997 jobs and create 733 new jobs.

It’s been a very busy year from tourism to adaptive reuse,” Wiktor said of 2020.

As for next year, Wiktor said he’s got some irons in the fire. “There are some local manufacturers looking to make a jump.” he added.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a brighter year in 2021.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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