Great Lakes Cheese Co. on track for spring construction

A survey marker in a recently-cut cornfield along Route 98 north of Franklinville marks the site of a proposed $500 million cheese plant planned by Great Lakes Cheese Co.

FRANKLINVILLE — It has been just a month since the Great Lakes Cheese Co. announced it would build a $500 million state-of-the-art cheese plant on Route 98 just north of Franklinville.

Great Lakes officials are still looking at this spring to begin construction, said Corey Wiktor, executive director of the Cattaraugus County IDA.

The IDA has provided the company with a sales tax exemption letter so they can begin the process of procuring equipment and material, Wiktor said. The company received bids earlier this week on the initial phases of construction.

“We are still very involved with Great Lakes Cheese on a daily basis,” Wiktor said, noting the process is underway to obtain permits for air quality and wastewater discharge.

Permission to cross part of a state forest in bringing a power line from the Machias substation may not be necessary, Wiktor said. National Grid is now considering obtaining a right-of-way for the power line along roadways.

The IDA is planning two virtual meetings to give residents in the area an opportunity to ask questions about the huge project. Officials from both Great Lakes and the IDA will take part.

The meetings, via Zoom are set for noon and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 27. The meetings will be accessible both online and via telephone.

The Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency agreed to a $153 million tax incentive package prior to the Ohio-based Great Lakes Cheese Co. announcement that it would build at the Franklinville site.

Great Lakes Cheese is purchasing a 200-acre site along Route 98 to build a 480,000-square-foot plant that will be the successor to the plant it now operates in Cuba. The current plant lacks room for expansion.

Great Lakes Cheese said it values their employees and wanted not only to keep the 230 existing workers, but hire another 200 employees to work in the new plant.

In addition, the company plans to double the amount of milk it buys in the region to 4 million gallons a day. That will provide a bigger market for many of the family farms across the area.

The Allegany County IDA had proposed the Crossroads site in the town of Belvidere for the new plant, but an unwilling seller and the cost to extend utilities to the site combined to cause Great Lakes to ultimately reject the site in June.

Days later, a town of Freedom dairy farmer, Jason Schwab, called the company and told officials he had a 200-acre cornfield 15 miles from the Cuba plant he’d like them to consider for the new cheese plant.

Great Lakes had another site in mind in LeRoy in Genesee County, but it was too far for most of the Cuba plant’s 230 employees to drive to and from work.

The Cattaraugus County IDA got involved and brought in other partners — most notably the Cattaraugus County Legislature, which put up $150,000 for initial site studies. A few months later legislators added another $250,000 for studies to convince Great Lakes it was a shovel-ready site.

Then, last month, county lawmakers agreed to put up $5.8 million for water and sewer lines from the village of Franklinville to the site. The $5.8 million will go to the village and town of Franklinville to expand and improve the municipal water and wastewater systems to accommodate the project.

Other state and federal grants are being sought to cover those costs, but legislators didn’t want that to become a concern to be dealt with later.

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

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