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Le Roy, Bergen team up to pursue prize in Best Communities contest

Le ROY – Town and village officials from Le Roy and Bergen are banking on an ample supply of family farms, tourist destinations and major roadways to help them advance to the next round of a $10 million America’s Best Communities contest.

Le Roy and Bergen have joined together on a proposed Le Roy Food and Technology Park at the corner of Route 19 and West Bergen Road, and hope to receive funding through the contest – which offers top prizes of $3 million, $2 million and $1 million – and from a $1.4 million state grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

Last week, leaders of the municipalities toured the area with representatives of Camoin Associates of Saratoga Springs, an investment consulting firm hired to submit a report to contest evaluators by early November.

“We got together to get a feel for the community – its strengths, predominant lifestyle and challenges – and to review its demographic data,” said Le Roy Town Supervisor Stephen R. Barbeau. “They (Camoin Associates) are the ones who will help us convince the judges, so to speak, that we’re worthy to receive the financial assistance to move forward.”

Barbeau said that they were able to identify several strong points in both communities.

“In Le Roy, our biggest strength is our agricultural base,” he said. “We really have many solid, strong family farms, mostly dairy and crops.”

He also pointed to the Jell-O Museum and Barn Quilt Trail in Le Roy and the Bergen Swamp as prime tourism spots, along with transportation access via an active railroad line, small airport, Routes 5 and 19, and the Thruway and Interstate 490.

The Barn Quilt Trail features large themed signs that are on about 100 businesses throughout Le Roy, while the Bergen Swamp is home to about three dozen plant species that are found nowhere else.

“Bergen has a bunch of small mom-and-pop businesses on its main street, including Miller’s Millworks, which manufactures podiums for the president of the United States, secretary of state and universities,” Barbeau noted.

Barbeau also mentioned that Liberty Pumps in Bergen has expanded four times and is looking to expand again as long as it can hook into a natural gas line.

“This is kind of where we’re both linked. The commercial park we are proposing needs natural gas to build and they need it to expand,” Barbeau said.

Le Roy and Bergen officials have called upon the expertise of the Genesee County Economic Development Center to tap into funding sources for the food and tech park, which would be built on 75 acres owned by the Mercedarian friars, an order of the Catholic Church. The friars’ former seminary, now a nursing home, is on the site.

The Le Roy/Bergen project has made it to the quarterfinals of the contest, which is sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel. Should it reach the semifinals, it would be in the running for $100,000 to continue implementation of its plan.

America’s Best Communities will name its three grand prize winners – those featuring innovative plans and efficient implementation – in April 2017.