Young entrepreneurs have big plans for growth

A groundbreaking was held this week for L&M Specialty Fabrication's new, 23,000-square-foot headquarters in Batavia. (photo by Velvet Spicer)
A groundbreaking was held this week for L&M Specialty Fabrication’s new, 23,000-square-foot headquarters in Batavia.
(photo by Velvet Spicer)

With just a couple of years of entrepreneurial experience under their belts, the three owners of Genesee County’s L&M Specialty Fabrication already have grown their business to the point that new space was a necessity. Thirty acres of new space.

The small firm does custom fabrication, design, manufacturing and repairs to agricultural specialty equipment such as packer rolls, mitering band saws, plate rolls, lathes and more. It is work and equipment that Lee Shuknecht, his sister, Sarah Geissler and her husband, Matt Geissler spent most of their lives around, Shuknecht said.

“We’ve kind of done this before,” 27-year-old Shuknecht said. “I kind of grew up with farm (work) in my family. And Matt worked on a farm.” Shuknecht’s father, Dale, and mother, Robin, also have backgrounds in the agricultural field.

Operating from a rented facility in Albion, Orleans County, L&M chose to focus the business on a customer-first philosophy, seeking loyalty and trust from its clients from the start. The personal approach worked, and the company soon outgrew its property.

The three owners, all under the age of 30, approached Genesee County Economic Development Center with a plan to accommodate its growth through the purchase of acreage on Saile Drive near Bank Street Road in Batavia. L&M was awarded a sales tax exemption of $84,000 and a property tax abatement of $158,656. The total project

Lee Shuknect, with L&M co-owners Matt Geissler and Sarah Geissler, and parents Robin and Dale Shuknect, at the company's ground-breaking this week. (photo by Velvet Spicer)
Lee Shuknecht, with L&M co-owners Matt Geissler and Sarah Geissler, and parents Robin and Dale Shuknecht, at the company’s ground-breaking this week.
(photo by Velvet Spicer)

cost is $2.2 million, and GCEDC anticipates that for every $1 of public support, there will be a return of $35 to the local economy.

At a groundbreaking this week, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, said the three owners have forged a blueprint of the American Dream.

“The group has found a specialty niche in the agricultural market,” Hawley said. “What’s even more impressive, besides their rapid growth and innovative products, is the personal relationship that they have with their customers.”

Although the company primarily repairs farm and construction equipment, as well as does custom manufacturing of tools and equipment, Shuknecht said L&M plans to begin producing its own self-propelled onion harvesting machines. Growing up in the Genesee County town of Elba, where the smell of onions is common all summer long, Shuknecht said the company has a ready-made local market for the equipment.

“So there’s some market here, but there’s a lot out west in Washington and Oregon,” Shuknecht said. “And then as well as some interest in New Zealand and Australia.”

With the opening of the 23,000-square-foot facility on Saile Drive, L&M is hoping to expand its custom manufacturing business and perhaps delve into other areas of manufacturing.

“We hope to get into our new building and expand the repair end, and hopefully with the onion harvesters we can expand that around the world,” Shuknecht said. “And then hopefully we can expand into some manufacturing, some different customer things, or maybe a whole different line of something once we get this going.”

The larger facility is expected to retain seven jobs and create two new jobs when it opens later this year or early 2019.

“We are very excited to welcome these young entrepreneurs who have chosen Batavia to grow and expand their business while fulfilling an important need for the agricultural sector in Genesee County and the surrounding region,” GCEDC chairman Paul Battaglia said.

Added Hawley: “The road to success, especially in New York, is not easy. But L&M seems to have cracked the code for growth and for success.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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8 projects approved for Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding

The City of Batavia won the 2017 round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This rendering of Main Street upgrades was submitted as part of the proposal.
The City of Batavia won the 2017 round of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This rendering of Main Street upgrades was submitted as part of the proposal.

Eight downtown projects have been approved for funding in the City of Batavia’s $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative win in 2017.

The strategic investments in downtown Batavia, the seat of the Genesee County micropolitan area, will help drive new, mixed-use development, improve access to local health care and transform public space for community use, officials said in a statement last week.

“Through smart investments and sustainable development, we are transforming Batavia’s downtown and generating prosperity throughout Western New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “These projects will help to not only preserve Batavia’s rich history and character, but they will enhance the city as a destination and act as an engine for future growth for the entire region.”

The state DRI is a $100 million initiative that began in 2016. Communities statewide apply to their Regional Economic Development Councils for $10 million in funding; one downtown area is then selected by each of the state’s 10 REDCs. The Finger Lakes region recipient in DRI’s first year was the City of Geneva.

In Batavia’s 2017 DRI proposal, titled “Bet on Batavia,” city officials noted that for the last decade they have been laying the groundwork for revitalization by redeveloping and rebuilding the city’s urban fabric and downtown economy that was lost during its mid-20th century urban renewal and subsequent economic declines. Batavia’s leaders felt the city now needed to bolster its community and cultural amenities and “expand downtown entrepreneurial and living opportunities to attract more boomers and millennials that will further stimulate the downtown economy’s transformation.”

The specific projects to be funded through the DRI include:

  • Create a thriving residential and commercial hub on the site of the former Della Penna property by constructing a new mixed-use development on the vacant and abandoned industrial brownfield. The new Ellicott Station will contain mixed-income residential units, four commercial spaces and a brewery/restaurant and will leverage more than $20 million dollars in grants and private investment to become a thriving residential/commercial anchor for downtown Batavia. ($425,000)
  • Rehabilitate the former Genesee Bank and the Carr’s Department Store buildings for mixed-use redevelopment. The first floor of the buildings, which have been vacant for more than five years, will be renovated for commercial uses, including a new cidery/café and retail and office incubator space. New mixed-income residential units on the upper floors will provide additional housing options for downtown residents. ($1,000,000)
  • Establish Ellicott Place as new mixed-use gateway to downtown by renovating a large, underused building at a prominent location on Ellicott Street to include three first-floor commercial spaces, first-floor covered parking and 10 upper-floor residential units. A new elevator and facade upgrades will improve access and instill community pride in a previously chronically vacant space. The redevelopment of the 48,121-square-foot building will complement the nearby Ellicott Station project and establish a new gateway to the downtown. ($1,150,000)
  • Develop an intergenerational healthy living campus in the heart of downtown, including a new home for the Genesee Area YMCA. The centrally located facility will include a roughly 60,000-square-foot building and parking for 300 cars. Together with a complementary medical building planned for the site of the former YMCA building, the project is expected to generate 3,000 visits downtown daily. ($4,075,000)
  • Establish a new regional performing arts center at Batavia City Centre by renovating the façade and interior of the city-owned building. The new visually prominent and centrally located downtown theater will feature space for offices, concessions, retail and a dance academy, and will augment nightlife and weekend activity. ($700,000)
  • Support downtown building improvements by creating a building improvement fund that will provide grants to assist downtown property owners to undertake both interior and exterior renovations. Building improvements will enhance the aesthetics and livability of the downtown core and provide opportunities for new entrepreneurs to establish their businesses. ($600,000)
  • Transform City Centre into an indoor market and performance space by upgrading the concourse and entrances to accommodate an indoor marketplace with micro-retail kiosks and public performance space to hold community events. Improvements will include flooring, lighting, entrance structures, wall color, and roof upgrades. ($1,000,000)
  • Enhance Jackson Square, a public gathering space bordered by historic buildings in the heart of downtown, with decorative pavement upgrades, a multi-level deck/stage, seating, lighting, decorative signage, a networking nook and landscaping. The upgraded public plaza will become a lively hub and common space for community interaction and provide connections to multiple businesses through its unique alleyway node configuration. ($750,000)

“Today’s announcement of Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is exciting news for the City of Batavia and our downtown district. We are thrilled for the projects that were chosen and the City will be ready to assist them move forward,” said Eugene Jankowski Jr., Batavia City Council president. “We are also dedicated to work with all the project owners that applied to the DRI, but did not receive funding to help them succeed in their plans here in Batavia. In all, the DRI investment could yield over $40 million in private investment directly into the downtown core of our city and that will bring prosperity to all.”

Steve Hyde
Steve Hyde

The governor’s office noted that downtown Batavia is a mixed-use, affordable neighborhood with access to jobs, anchor businesses and city and county services. The area has an excellent foundation upon which to continue its revitalization, officials said, including amenities such as recreational sites, health care facilities, food markets, a library and various retail and restaurant venues in a walkable environment.

“Through a collaborative process, we have identified various private and public projects that have been vetted publicly. We are confident these projects will further our mission of growing our economy and revitalizing our urban core, as place-making and downtown redevelopment is such a critical piece of today’s live, work and play models required by our multi-generational community,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia DRI Local Planning Committee co-chair. “These projects will be a catalyst for future private sector investments as we continue our collaborative efforts to redevelop the city of Batavia. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his vision to invest in place-making and downtown revitalization across New York and for his confidence in Batavia and Genesee County’s enabling its continued growth and redevelopment.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021

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Downtowns set to compete for state revitalization funding

A rendering of Batavia's proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city's DRI win. (Provided)
A rendering of Batavia’s proposed Downtown Public Market structure that is to be part of the city’s DRI win. (Provided)

The State of New York has launched the third round of its Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI, investing $100 million in 10 downtown areas across the state.

The annual competition awards $10 million to each of 10 downtowns, chosen by the state’s 10 regional economic development councils. The investment is designed to boost local economies and foster vibrant neighborhoods that offer a higher quality of life in regions statewide.

“We have seen firsthand the excitement and transformative nature of these investments—turning downtowns into economic engines for their communities and beyond,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday. “This new round of funding will provide these downtowns new opportunities to rebuild for 21st century needs and foster growth that will be felt across the entire region.”

Now in its third year, DRI will accept applications until June 1 and regional councils will weigh eight criteria to select nominees:
• The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
• The municipality, or the downtown’s catchment area, should be of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown;
• The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
• There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
• The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, including existing residents, millennials and skilled workers;
• The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes and parking standards, complete streets plans, energy efficient projects, green jobs, and transit-oriented development;
• The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a DRI strategic investment plan; and
• The municipality has identified transformative projects that will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years.

In the Finger Lakes Region, the city of Geneva was the first recipient of the $10 million DRI, while the city of Batavia was the recipient in 2017. Officials did not indicate when the winners would be announced, but last year DRI recipients were announced in October.

Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city's revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Seneca Street in Geneva, where some of the city’s revitalization has occurred. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“Winning the Downtown Revitalization Initiative has stimulated public infrastructure projects focused on making downtown public spaces and the connection to the lakefront safe, vibrant and lively for residents and visitors,” Geneva Mayor Ron Alcock said. “In addition, property owners are investing further in their buildings and businesses as a result of the DRI. All of the DRI projects contribute towards successfully forwarding our comprehensive plan’s vision of a beautiful, prosperous, equitable, connected and sustainable Geneva.”

In Batavia’s winning proposal, the plan calls for capitalizing on the economic development success the region has experienced in the last decade. The DRI will close project funding gaps, officials said in their proposal, increase project feasibility and provide certainty for private investors to move forward.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has created economic development momentum in Batavia that I have not seen before in my 31-year career with the city,” Batavia Interim City Manager Matt Worth said.

Genesee County Economic Development Center officials on Thursday are planning a walking tour in the Batavia to showcase successful economic development projects, in conjunction with National Economic Development Week May 7 through May 11.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative has given communities across the state the opportunity to spearhead local projects that will grow their downtowns and boost the economy,” said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils. “I’ve visited many cities that were awarded funding as part of Rounds 1 and 2 of the DRI, and they’re moving full speed ahead with exciting plans that will transform their areas.”

As part of the initiative, the state is promoting smart growth strategies and transit-oriented development, which is in increased demand from New Yorkers across the state, Hochul said.

“The investment in Round 3 of the DRI will give even more communities the resources they need to pursue these collaborative and innovative projects,” she added.

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Genesee County EDC changes 2016 operating loss to income in 2017

Construction at the WNY STAMP facility in the Town of Alabama, Genesee County, is underway.
Construction at the WNY STAMP facility in the Town of Alabama, Genesee County, is underway.

The Genesee County Economic Development Council this week reported its independently audited 2017 financials.

GCEDC finished 2017 with a net operating income of $2.9 million, compared with an operating loss of $574,000 in 2016. Fee revenue in 2018 totaled $2.2 million, with $1.6 million attributed to the closing of the HP Hood LLC deal. Hood, a dairy company based in Lynnfield, Mass., announced last summer it had purchased the former Dairy Farmers of America plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia, with the intent to invest more than $200 million over several years and create 230 jobs over five years.

The project origination fees associated with the project will be collected over six years, GCEDC officials said in a statement. The first payment of $279,000 was received in 2017.

GCEDC ended the year with total assets of $20.7 million, including  $14.1 million in noncurrent assets. That compares with total assets of $15.6 million in 2016, audit documents show.

GCEDC received $193,500 in county contributions last year. Grant income to the agency totaled $5.5 million, with $5 million attributable to the Western New York Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP), which is being built northwest of Batavia in the town of Alabama.

STAMP recently hit a hurdle when its lead occupant, 1366 Technologies, backed out of the site. The company had planned to develop a solar wafer manufacturing plant at the STAMP facility that would have employed 1,000 people.

“In 2017, the GCEDC continued design, engineering and permitting for the initial infrastructure at the WNY STAMP site. The GCEDC has been utilizing the funds available in the $33 million New York State budget allocation to complete the main entrance road and start construction on the main water line,” said Mark Masse, senior vice president of operations for GCEDC.

Masse said the design of Phase II water for Town of Alabama residents is underway, with construction expected this summer.

“Design and engineering for the reroute of National Grid’s 115kV lines is proceeding, and this will prepare the main manufacturing campus for a large-scale tenant,” Masse added. “Conceptual design process has started on the 345kV substation, which is critical to bringing 500MW of low-cost hydropower to the site.”

GCEDC CFO Lezlie Farrell noted that at the end of 2017 there were several attraction projects in the pipeline that remain active, including Fleet Maintenance Inc., a Buffalo trucking sales and service company that plans to expand to Batavia; Ellicott Station, a mixed-use development planned for Ellicott Street in Batavia; Coach Tony’s, a hot sauce maker that plans to expand in Bergen; and Gateway GS LLC, an office space development project in the Town of Batavia.

“The GCEDC continues to see business development projects that will increase investment in our community, build tax base and jobs,” Farrell said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021

Magazine ranks Batavia second among U.S. micropolitan areas

The HP Hood LLC manufacturing facility that is being renovated in Batavia is expected to create 230 jobs over five years. Batavia has been ranked second by Site Selection magazine among 575 micropolitan areas nationwide for its number of projects signed. (Photo by James Cavanaugh)
The HP Hood LLC manufacturing facility that is being renovated in Batavia is expected to create 230 jobs over five years. Batavia has been ranked second by Site Selection magazine among 575 micropolitan areas nationwide for its number of projects signed. (Photo by James Cavanaugh)

Batavia has been ranked second among the nation’s 575 micropolitan areas by Site Selection magazine. It was the only city in New York State to crack the list’s Top 40.

Micropolitan areas are regions containing an urban core population of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000. A metropolitan statistical area, like Rochester, has an urban core of at least 50,000 people.

Batavia, the seat of Genesee County, had previously tied for fifth in each of the last two years of Site Selection’s list. Batavia had 17 qualifying projects signed in 2017, the magazine’s ranking criteria, and scored 16 project “wins” that generated roughly $240 million in investment.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment, and it once again demonstrates the commitment and collaboration among the public and private sectors to bring new investment and jobs to the region and just as important to assist companies that are already here in expanding and retaining jobs, said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, in a statement.

Findlay, Ohio— the home of Cooper Tire, Marathon Petroleum and Whirlpool dishwashers —ranked as the top micropolitan area this year, having held the top spot for the last four years.

Site Selection noted that Batavia has the luxury of being located within 30 miles of the New York Power Authority’s Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant, which generates 2.4 million kilowatts of renewable energy. A 2005 law allows qualifying businesses to use that power at cost, which translates to a highly competitive rate of less than 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

The magazine also noted Batavia’s largest employer, O-AT-KA Milk Cooperative, which qualifies for the discounted electricity, and cited incentives and available property that helped the micropolitan area achieve its No. 2 ranking.

Since 2003, the GCEDC has provided assistance and incentives for 449 projects that have generated $1.3 billion in capital investment and the creation or retention of more than 4,500 jobs.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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O-AT-KA to expand in Batavia

O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative plans to build a 20,000-square-foot expansion onto its production facility in the city of Batavia.

A state grant of $750,000 was announced Wednesday, Jan. 10, for the $34.5 million project, which also includes incentives from the Genesee County Economic Development Agency.

The addition on the plant at Cedar and Ellicott streets will allow the creation of 20 new jobs and is expected to have a new production line running in it by next fall. O-AT-KA Chief Financial Officer Michael Fuchs said the line will handle retort beverage products, such as coffee and tea lattes, protein drinks and nutritional supplement beverages that the company already makes in Batavia.

“This project supports our continued growth and will allow us to meet growing market demands for our products,” Fuchs said. “The support we continue to receive from ESD, GCEDC and our board of directors is a testament to their commitment to the livelihood of our dairy farmer owners and to our position as a leading employer in Western New York.”

O-AT-KA is the largest private employer in Genesee County and currently employs 440 people. Some 400 New York dairy farms supply the plant with milk.

The co-chairs of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, Monroe Community College President Anne Kress and Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Bob Duffy, said in a joint statement: “Agriculture is an important industry and a key driver of our regional economy. This expansion project will also create solid opportunities for area farmers, shaping the future of the region’s agricultural industry, helping to move the Finger Lakes forward.”

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Batavia wins $10 million revitalization initiative

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia this week to announce the winner of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia this week to announce the winner of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The city of Batavia is the Finger Lakes region second-round winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The Genesee County micropolitan area epicenter will receive $10 million in funding and investments and now will begin the process of developing a strategic investment plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the grant.

“This $10 million award will help attract jobs, spur private investment and transform Batavia’s downtown into a vibrant, diverse and economically active business and cultural center,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “By investing in the unique strengths of local communities, we are driving economic resurgence and continuing to move the Finger Lakes forward.”

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered eight criteria before recommending Batavia as its nominee for winner.

Criteria for the winner included a compact downtown of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown, as well as having the ability to capitalize on prior or future private or public investment in the neighborhood. The winning city also needed to have recent or impending job growth and have a downtown that was both attractive and livable for a diverse population.

The city of Geneva was the Finger Lakes region’s first-round DRI winner.

“The city of Batavia presented a very solid, collaborative, community-based plan that focuses on smart, public-private investments,” said Howard Zemsky, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development.

Batavia’s downtown is a mixed-use, affordable neighborhood with access to jobs, anchor businesses and city and county services. Through the DRI, the city of Batavia will accelerate the redevelopment of existing buildings and create additional business and residential opportunities downtown.

“The governor’s commitment of $10 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative comes at a time when Batavia is on the edge of major economic development and growth,” Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski said. “The award will propel our efforts forward as our community continues to work together to strengthen and grow downtown. There’s no doubt that jobs and private sector development will follow this investment.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the City of Batavia had won the second-round, $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the city of Batavia had won the second-round, $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

DRI complements Finger Lakes Forward, the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The state has invested more than $5.2 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan, which is designed to invest in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production and advanced manufacturing.

“This $10 million investment will provide the tools and resources the city of Batavia needs to succeed,” said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst. “Together we will take downtown Batavia to the next level, transforming it into a hub of activity and excitement. By revitalizing our local neighborhoods, we are moving our upstate economy forward.”

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

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