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Great Lakes Cheese picks Franklinville for new factory

Great Lakes Cheese picks Franklinville for new factory

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Great Lakes Cheese

The Empire Cheese plant in Cuba, N.Y.

Great Lakes Cheese will build a more than $500 million cheese factory in Franklinville, ending a two-year search by the company for a replacement for its Cuba facility.

The new factory, which officials said will be the biggest economic development project ever in Cattaraugus County, will nearly double its current workforce and create 200 new jobs, while securing the company's future in Western New York.

The announcement Wednesday that the company had settled on Franklinville as the site of its new plant ends a search that initially centered on farmland in Allegany County, only to see those efforts end in controversy. It came after the company was granted a package of tax breaks that could be worth as much as $166 million by the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

The 480,000-square-foot factory the company plans to build on about 130 acres along Route 16 in Franklinville will expand the capacity of Great Lakes Cheese and also increase the demand for milk produced by Western New York dairy farmers. It is expected to employ about 430 workers.

Construction on the new factory is expected to begin in the spring of 2022 and be completed by early 2025. The Cuba factory, which now employs 229 workers, will then close. Company officials predict that about 95% of the Cuba plant's workers will continue to work at the new Franklinville plant, said Corey Wiktor, the IDA's executive director.

The Empire Cheese plant in Cuba, N.Y., a subsidiary of Great Lakes Cheese, is a major economic engine for the area, which is regionally known for its cheese. The plant produces mostly mozzarella and provolone cheese.

Kurt Epprecht, whose family owns the Ohio-based company, said the new factory will be "one of the country's premier cheese manufacturing and packaging facilities."

Great Lakes Cheese scrapped its initial plan to build the factory in Allegany County this spring after it couldn't reach a deal with the dairy farmer who owns hundreds of acres of cropland in the hamlet of Belvidere that it was targeting for the expansion. A subsequent attempt to take control of the land through eminent domain generated a backlash within Allegany County.

“The Epprecht family and Board of Directors are thrilled to have found the location and community needed to support such a major investment in nearby Franklinville," he said in a statement.

Economic development officials said the plant will not only boost employment in Cattaraugus County, but also help the area's farmers and help retain 600 agricultural jobs across the region.

"We now have a golden opportunity to combine an industry-leading family- and employee-owned business with the dairy and farming heritage and industry in Cattaraugus County," Wiktor said.

The IDA offered the company a 25-year property tax break agreement to the company. The company will pay no property taxes on the new construction during the first 20 years of that agreement.

"This company was literally all about retaining their jobs," Witkor said. "There were down to this site or out of state."

Great Lakes Cheese had looked for more than two years for a site to build a replacement for its Cuba cheese factory, which traces its roots to 1871 and was sold to Great Lakes Cheese in 1993. The company has said it didn't have room to expand at its current location.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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