The following is an email submitted by Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle to the GeneseeSun.com for publication. The attitudes and ideas expressed below should not be interpreted as the opinion of the GeneseeSun.com.
There is much to celebrate as Livingston County joins thousands of county government peers across the nation in commemorating April 2017 as National County Government Month. The sounds you have been hearing and the momentum you have been feeling are a sign of the development activity and progress going on right now in Livingston County. From Avon to Dansville and all points in between, the Livingston County community has been on an unprecedented roll and 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year.
Last year’s regional economic development council process brought the County the region’s single largest award at $2.3 million for the Gateway Project in Livonia. This 250 acre parcel is primed for development and both state officials and site selectors nationally are touting the location’s access to the agricultural industry, the proximity to Interstate 390 and the prevalence of a highly skilled workforce as major contributors to its positioning as a prime development opportunity. Additionally, the County is seeking to develop a regional small grain hub to be located here which would collect, store, segregate and distribute artisan and organic grains for use in craft brewing, distilling, and baking.
Other major awards included $185,000 for the Brew In Livingston program, a creative, high return on investment program to spur a craft beverage trail in the county. From the 15 identified finalists, brewers competed in a business plan competition to win one of four awards consisting of $35,000 in grant funding, access to a revolving loan fund and other prizes. Economic development professionals across the state are already calling the Brew In Initiative a ‘project of the year’ caliber effort for small business. Last but not least in the council process was the awarding of a planning grant to study the feasibility of a large-scale Public Market. Think about food, craft and drink vendors, a commercial kitchen, cooking demonstrations, ancillary offerings like entertainment and music, and fun for every age category, all in a single, convenient location. This is potentially a game-changing quality-of-life endeavor for Livingston County.
The private sector has responded to the County’s burgeoning development action. Employers added 206 jobs from the same quarter in the prior year. The LCIDA introduced eight (8) projects in 2016 that expect to fully develop in 2017 leading to the retention and creation of 348 jobs. Additional prospects loom in 2017 as the momentum builds. Construction will continue on the $52 million WNY Cheese Enterprise plant in York where the Denmark-based dairy cooperative, Arla Foods, will pair with U.S.-based dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, to manufacture cheese. American Rock Salt is planning an expansion to the largest operating salt mine in the U.S. by shifting their underground operations westward to tap the 1,700 acres of mining rights and thereby securing a minimum of 10 additional years to the life of the mine. After a devastating fire, Commodity Resource Corporation (CRC) has reconstructed a larger, state-of-the-art facility where Land O’ Lakes can resume their operations by providing feed to the area farmers. The Coast Professional call center is doubling in size while touting the lowest turnover and the best productivity of any location in their company’s portfolio. Other expansion efforts with existing companies like LMC Industrial Contractors, Sweeteners Plus and others will continue to add jobs while the attraction strategy seeks to pursue new businesses to the area thereby adding to the tax base and providing job opportunities for residents.
Our innovative Downtown Partnership Program is a nationally recognized effort that continues to grab headlines for awards and positive news in our nine Villages. With the assistance of the County grant-writing program, we were able to secure $785,000 in State funds from Restore NY for the Battle Street Brewery Project in Dansville and the Avon Inn restoration in the Village of Avon. Our grant program and our Downtown Partnership are models for shared services, intermunicipal cooperation, and government efficiency.
The County’s many public and private partnerships were further advanced in 2016 and this year are poised to prosper even more. The Chamber of Commerce, home to the County Tourism program, is a shining example. We cannot forget about outside visitors and the attractions that bring in tourists and tourism dollars. Letchworth State Park welcomed 782,603 visitors in 2016 (the park averaged 650,000 visitors per year in the past decade) and nearby Stony Brook State Park welcomed 212,655 visitors (a 22% increase over 2015). The Hemlock “Little World’s” Fair had a second record year for attendance with over 35,000 fair-goers. Livingston County hotels experienced a record July and August in 2016 in terms of occupancy and overall occupancy revenues were up 8%. One of the County’s signature centers of employment, educational and economic activity is SUNY Geneseo. Last year, the County entered into an organization-wide internship placement and affiliate agreement with the College, allowing the County to benefit from the energetic brainpower right in our County and the students to benefit from valuable credit and experience working for a progressive governmental organization.
While we have the normal constraints of operating as a county government in New York State and the under/unfunded mandates to deal with daily, we do so in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The average single family homeowner is paying around $85/month in county property taxes to support our 24/7, life-cycle public services. Our award-winning services and programs are here to serve both residents and visitors and our 1,200 plus staff value the work of public service. Among other items, 2017 will see work towards establishing on-site dialysis service at the CNR, continued improvements in interoperable communication capabilities for first responders, enhancements to the emergency medical services department and more meals for homebound seniors. These are just a sampling of the 75 action item goals in the County’s recently approved Strategic Plan. Bridge and highway work is also a priority, and we were recently announced as one of the largest recipients in the area for Bridge NY grants. With Federal and State Aid, work will soon take place on 14 different bridges on County and Town roads.
As we celebrate National County Government Month, Livingston County is proud to be a leader in local government. Nowhere in the local government spectrum will you find the diversity and breadth of services that exist here in County government. From early intervention programs at birth and Pre-K Special education services for toddlers, through Aging services, nursing home care and Hospice care at end of life, Livingston County is here to serve you throughout life’s every stage and every age.
With Spring beginning, look for continued progress, development, and activity in Livingston County. The proverbial seeds have been planted for what is shaping up to be quite a bountiful and productive 2017.