Local farmers and others in the agriculture sector may soon have a new regional hub to help to grow their businesses.
Plans for developing a regional agribusiness park took a step forward with the recent purchase of the former Eden-Angola Airport and some adjoining land in the Town of Evans.
The 240-acre site is now owned by an affiliate of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. Its new president and CEO, John Cappellino, said the site stands out for a number of reasons, including its close proximity to the Thruway and an existing rail line.
“The overall goal is really to put in a facility that would be able to have processors, manufacturers, others that are related to agricultural to help support our local farms and agricultural production, with facilities here in the region, and to locate those out in the areas where most of our agricultural production is, as well,” Cappellino said.
The site cost $980,000, but not at taxpayer expense. The IDA is funded with contract fees, loan fees and investments.
David Walczak, operations director for the Eden Valley Growers says the co-op’s nine members were not consulted about the proposed project. But Walczak says it sounds like a great idea, even if it is still in its infancy.
“Erie County’s a big agricultural county and there's kind of a need there to create value to what we're producing. We all do nice jobs with whether we're growing or making milk products or whatever. But there could be a need for helping take it to the next level and processing, potentially freezing, potentially butchering,” Walczak said.
National Grid provided the agency with a $354,000 grant for drawing up the master plan and environmental impact statement. But Cappellino says given the circumstances, it could be summer or fall before work on the project begins.