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Plans for an agribusiness park in Evans take a step forward

The site of a shut-down airport in Angola has taken a big step forward in the prolonged effort to turn it into an agribusiness park.

An affiliate of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency has acquired the 240-acre site not far from the Eden/Angola Thruway exit, with plans to turn it into a site that could be used by food processors and other businesses that want to establish operations near Western New York farmers in the Southtowns.

The project, which has been in the works for several years, has been slow to take shape, partly because of prolonged negotiations to acquire the land. The IDA, through its Buffalo & Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp. affiliate, agreed in late 2018 to acquire the site from a pair of property owners for $980,000, but it wasn't until recently that the deal closed.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the agribusiness park is important because it will create a site with established infrastructure that could be quickly developed by companies looking to establish operations near farmers in the Southtowns.

"This new Agribusiness Park will connect producers with businesses that rely on agricultural products, identifying new markets for our produce and strengthening our agricultural sector," he said.

County officials have been looking for ways to help local farmers develop new markets.

And while there's no guarantee that the site will be able to attract major employers, having sites that are ready for construction is essential for the region to be even considered for that type of project, said Thomas A. Kucharski, the president of Invest Buffalo Niagara, the local business development and marketing group.

"It’s a compelling proposition to any food processing company considering expansion or relocation," located near farms and abundant water supplies, he said.

The Evans site spans 240 acres on Eden Evans Center Road, roughly the same size as the industrial park that the county is developing at the former Bethlehem Steel site. The property is near the Eden-Angola exit on the Thruway and also is close to major rail lines.

But developing the park will take time. Installing utilities, water and sewer systems, along with roads and other preparatory work, is expected to take years. National Grid is providing a $354,000 grant to develop plans to install new utility and roads at the site, along with other development costs.

"Western New York needs a robust portfolio of developable sites and buildings to attract new business and help existing businesses grow," said Ken Kujawa, National Grid's regional director in Buffalo.

The privately owned airfield has been closed since 2002, when its owner filed for bankruptcy.

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