Great Lakes Cheese seeks sales tax break on higher project costs

This drone photo provided by Great Lakes Cheese Co. shows progress in construction of the company’s $500 million cheese plant near Franklinville.

ELLICOTTVILLE — Great Lakes Cheese Co. asked the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency for a modification of its original incentives on a $500 million Franklinville plant due to inflation and supply chain issues.

The IDA Board of Directors agreed March 20 to set a public hearing for 10:30 a.m. March 30 on the application from Great Lakes Cheese to modify the tax abatement agreement to reflect an additional $121 million investment, $45 million of which sales tax abatement is being requested.

Great Lakes is building a 486,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cheese manufacturing and processing plant that will need nearly 500 employees to operate.

About half of those employees will come from the Great Lakes Cheese plant in Cuba, which will close as the new Franklinville plant comes online. The company is partially owned by employees. The rest of the employees will be new hires for what will be on average $50,000-a-year positions.

When plans fell through two years ago to build the new plant in Allegany County, economic development and elected officials in Cattaraugus County promoted the Franklinville site and committed millions of dollars toward the project, including funds to extend sewer and water service to the site.

Corey Wiktor, IDA executive director, told the board that since the Great Lakes package was approved in October 2021, unforeseen inflationary pressures have hit the building materials being used in the plant’s construction — from steel to concrete and roofing. The company broke ground for the plant last April.

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Great Lakes is committed to the project despite the historic cost overruns stemming from inflation and supply chain issues.

“They are investing $600 million for the next 50 years,” Wiktor said. The IDA board will formally consider the request for modification at its April meeting.

THE IDA BOARD also agreed to set a public hearing on an application from Win-Sum Ski Corp., owners of Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, for an $8 million project this year, including finishing a new six-person chairlift on Mardi Gras, renovations at The Inn, new snow guns, IT software, a snowcat and other improvements.

David Trathan of Holiday Valley told the board the resort’s mountain crew will build the new six-person Mardi Gras chairlift after having installed new concrete footings last summer.

Sales tax abatement is being sought by Win-Sum. The resort employs about 1,000 and pays about $525,000 in property taxes annually. It also generates sales tax and bed tax receipts for the county.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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