Empire Zone board approves two applications

Loujane Johns

Two Dundee area businesses are the first in Yates County to have applications approved for the Empire Zone program by the Yates County Empire Zone Administrative Board.

Dundee Foods and Premium Co-pack submitted the applications which were approved in an executive session of the local board on Nov. 24.  Ryan Hallings, Empire Zone Coordinator, says the next step is to send the applications to the state for review by the Departments of Economic Development and Labor. 

Hallings is confident the applications will be approved at the state level, but given the present economic situation, the process could be slow.

The Empire Zone program was started to stimulate economic growth and stimulate jobs and growth through a variety of tax incentives. It serves to attract new business and help existing business in the state.  Under the Empire Zone only the state portion of property, income and sales tax is exempted.  Local taxes are still collected.

Finger Lakes Economic Development Center C.E.O.  Steve Griffin told board members that Dundee Foods is seeking to stay in the area and wants to upgrade and expand, which would create more jobs.  “Anything we can do to help them would be good.  They are either going to grow or go from a production facility to just a warehouse.” 

Griffin went on to say that the Village of Dundee had received a Small Cities Grant for sewer infrastructure recently.  There had been problems with the village’s wastewater system not being able to handle the flow from Dundee Foods.

He said if Dundee Foods did not keep production in Dundee the village could be in jeopardy of losing their grant.

In order to be eligible to participate, a business must be located within the local empire zone or qualify as a regionally significant project. 

Both businesses deal with agriculture and food processing, which is consistent with the Yates County zone plan.

The companies must demonstrate that they will create new jobs and/or make investments in the empire zone.  The final factor considered is cost/benefit analysis.  For instance, will total benefits and wages paid add capital investment in a five year period.

In other business, Griffin gave the members a brief report on downtown business in Penn Yan.  Griffin and Hallings recently did a walking tour to assess the downtown area and they reported findings at the November FLEDC.

Board members were interested in a survey that was composed as a result of the downtown overview.  Griffin said these questionnaires will be available at various businesses including lodging and wineries to get an idea about what visitors and residents would like to see in downtown Penn Yan. The survey also asks questions about shopping habits.

One idea Griffin and Hallings thought might be beneficial was having non-retail businesses move to the second floor levels, freeing up street level store fronts for retail shops.

Board members were enthusiastic about the ideas and agreed downtown improvements would be helpful in attracting new business to the area.