Legislature Discusses Empire Cheese, CCIDA Resolutions

MAYVILLE – Empire Specialty Cheese Co., LLC is taking a $616,000 step toward opening a Chautauqua County location.

The Chautauqua County Legislature had an opportunity to hear from Empire’s owner, Tony Caparco, during its regular meeting Wednesday. Caparco plans to establish a cheese production operation in the town of Harmony at the former AFA Foods facility.

According to the resolution, Empire had requested the county apply for funding on its behalf from the New York State Office of Community Renewal to finance a portion of the cost of equipment and working capital required to establish operations. The resolution authorized the grant to be submitted in the amount of $616,000.

Caparco told legislators Empire Specialty Cheese was founded in 2000, and currently operates in Conewango Valley. He said his company currently employs 45 people. He plans to grow to more than 200 employees within five years at the new facility.

Additionally, Caparco assured legislators he has a working partnership with the Amish, who provide Grade B milk for the facility. He said the Conewango location will remain open as a transfer station. In addition to production at the Harmony facility, Caparco said he would like to open an Italian deli and specialty shop at the location.

“I also understand Mr. Caparco is asking for no money from the county or the IDA,” said Fred Croscut, R-Sherman. “He is simply asking that we will support this grant today, which I intend to support.”

The resolution unanimously passed the legislature.

During the meeting, legislators also voted down three resolutions regarding the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, which were at the request of Bob Whitney, D-Jamestown.

The resolutions request the New York State Legislature to modify the membership of the CCIDA; request the CCDIA adopt a local labor policy for projects receiving CCIDA financial assistance; and request the CCIDA adopt a local supplier policy for projects receiving CCIDA financial assistance.

George Borrello, R-Irving, told legislators Whitney had brought the resolution to the Planning and Economic Development in August. After the committee discussed the resolution, it tabled it in order to get more information. Whitney reintroduced the resolution in September, adding two additional resolutions.

“We have received letters from the Southern Tier Builder’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturer’s Association all opposing strongly the legislation that has been proposed,” Borrello said. “I will continue to vote no.”

Other legislators spoke in favor of the resolutions, though.

“The purpose of the CCIDA tax abatements is to save and create jobs,” said Tim Hoyer, D-Jamestown. “Businesses who are building buildings or are expanding are allowed to use their tax abatements to hire people from outside the county. The purpose of the CCIDA is lost. This amendment just helping CCIDA do its job.”

Voting against the resolution were Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; Borrello; Croscut; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; Rod Rogers, G-Forestville; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood; and legislative Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia; Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan; Hoyer; Victoria James, D-Jamestown; and Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown.

Absent from the meeting were Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown, and Whitney.