Industrial park will get first business
SCHUYLER COUNTY--In a forward-looking venture, an initiative spearheaded by the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development has made it possible for the 20-year-old Schuyler County Business Park to welcome its first tenants in 2019. The very first one is expected in the spring when Valois-based Lucky Hare Brewing Company moves its production facility to part of the newly constructed 19,000 square foot Ultra Premium Beverage Facility.
The 47-acre business park, located on Route 414 in the town of Dix, was purchased and developed with a collection of grants --no tax money was involved. In fact, for the past two decades, SCOPED has been paying the land taxes on this property, because they're not a tax-exempt non-profit, says executive director Judy McKinney-Cherry. Literally invested in seeing the business park succeed, the SCOPED board decided to create a beverage production facility, using the site's access to municipal fresh water and waste-water processing to help area businesses expand production while protecting the waters of Seneca Lake.
"The board recognized that in order to protect the health of Seneca Lake and all the Finger Lakes we needed an alternative site for wine, beer and cider producers to locate so that their wastewater wasn't ending up in the lake," Cherry says. "And we knew from 2015 that there was an effort being made by the state DEC and others to really focus on the runoff and some of the concerns about how wastewater and waste in general were being managed by these production facilities. Being concerned that some of these wineries and breweries would have to make a decision about expansion or not based on those costs, we thought it made more sense for us to create a building where they could do their work, keep their costs contained, just focus on making their premium beverages."
Legally, the building is owned by Finger Lakes Gateway Enterprises, LLC, a subsidiary of SCOPED. It has no permanent flooring but a flexible space where a tenant may contract for 2,000 to 10,000 square feet of production space, "So they can design the interior the way they need it. It's the first facility of its kind on the east coast," she says.
Ian Conboy, vice president and head brewer at Lucky Hare, first learned about the possibility of expanding his production through the facility at the business park at a business development meeting two years ago. The prospect fit well with his own five year plan involving increasing production to 5,000 barrels annually, diversifying his product line and expanding Lucky Hare's footprint into additional markets.
But environmental concerns constrained some of these ideas. He notes, "As a brewery grows, you produce more wastewater, which means more holding tanks that have to get pumped out, and a larger septic system. And we're right by Curry Creek that runs into Seneca Lake. This way, the wastewater treatment and handling will be all taken care of."
Moving the production off-site has other advantages beyond expanding retail sales. "We're looking to redevelop our property with a commercial kitchen, possibly a bistro where people can sit and eat and drink," he says. The barn, currently used as a production space, would be freed up to become a music venue or event space. "We're talking to a couple of different architects right now about what could be done without affecting our neighbors and the environment."
The synergy of having others nearby in the same business also offers increased possibilities of collaboration, he says, "Because we're all in it together. We're not trying to step over the next person-- it's a community." And the community will also expand with more employment opportunities."
Cherry predicts there will soon be others joining Lucky Hare. "We have some other tenants considering this, looking at the cost/benefit, and others who have been discussing building their own buildings there," she says.
"Getting a bricks-and-mortar facility there was important," says Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn. "From the county's perspective, we're thrilled to see it progressing and looking forward to it. This is a long-awaited and a very positive development for the community. It certainly will be the catalyst for additional growth, not only the facility but also in the county."