Pictured, Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello provides opening remarks during the presentation of the Project-Grow Chautauqua study.
MAYVILLE, N.Y.: – Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello has announced that the comprehensive study and plan to explore the feasibility of a hops and grains processing facility in the County has been completed.
The study, which was released in August 2019, was partially funded by Chautauqua County, the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), Gebbie Foundation, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, and Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation.
The completed plan was a dual effort undertaken by the county and developer, Chris LaCorata. The study investigates the viability of creating a vertically integrated agri-business, using Chautauqua County as a centralized hub for growing and processing, with operations extending throughout the Western New York and Southern Tier regions.
The county and developer secured the services of First Key, who specializes in brewery, distillery, hops, and malting operations, to conduct the comprehensive study. The results include an assessment of the regions overall market, technical capabilities, and a conceptual plan to determine the viability of a combined hops, barley, and grains processing operation located in Chautauqua County. The developer secured a marketing and branding firm, Brightly Creative, to formulate a strategy that includes marketing the regions farming community.
The study was conducted by a five-member technical team from First Key. The team was led by Steve Rockhold, a 20-year veteran of the brewery industry at MillerCoors. The investigation involved extensive on-site time in the county, collaborating with local stakeholders including farmers, brewery/distillery operators, and agricultural experts. In total, more than 25 separate work sessions involving 10 different groups and thousands of hours were part of the extensive body of work undertaken over the past 15 months.
On May 30, 2019, a Hops and Grains Summit was organized with Cornell University Agricultural Cooperative Extension and New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech, which is led by Executive Director and former State Senator, Catharine Young. The goal of the summit was to organize a panel of agricultural and industry experts to identify crops that can be successfully grown on a commercial scale in Chautauqua County and throughout the region that will meet quality requirements of craft beverage customers. This session was undertaken to help target growing estimates and strategic plans as part of the study.
The study demonstrates the viability of the proposed Project Grow Chautauqua model of an integrated grower/processor using Chautauqua County as a central hub of operations. Significant farmer impact is expected with large acreage requirements estimated. It also predicts that farm operation costs will be positively impacted through the vertical/centralized design that reduces handling and storage costs for farmers. The integrated, low-cost, high-control facility design is thought to be a significant industry innovation and addresses craft brewery/distillery operators’ biggest challenges of quality, consistency, and availability of current in-state sourced ingredients. Invest Buffalo Niagara calculates an economic impact of $91 million and 404 jobs created from the development and growth of this new business.
“I am very proud that something that started as an idea, after visiting the hops demonstration project at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Lab, has grown into a game-changing opportunity for our region,” said Borrello.
“Chautauqua County and Chris LaCorata are trailblazing the way in innovative thinking and development, and this exciting project has the potential to transform the industry and establish New York as a leader in production,” said Young. “Expert input from Cornell helped develop the roadmap for this groundbreaking project, and it personally means a great deal to me that I was able to make those connections through my new role at the Center of Excellence. The processing facility will grow jobs, the economy and opportunities for people in the Chautauqua region and across the state, while opening pathways to farmers to grow new crops and add much-needed revenue to their bottom lines. Hats off to Chris LaCorata for his belief and investment in our region, and George Borrello for his hard work in quarterbacking this important effort.”
“This was truly a collaborative team effort,” said LaCorata. “The support we received for this project from the County, CCIDA, local foundations, and others has been impressive from the start. In my view, this is not just the launching of a new business, but the start of a new sector of industry right here in Chautauqua County. The County’s willingness to work with us from the early stages of an idea has resulted in what will inevitably be a significant economic driver in the region, as well as significant innovation for the agricultural sector.”
LaCorata went on to commend Borrello for his vision to enhance local businesses and agriculture. He also recognized the efforts of Mark Geise, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development/ CEO of the CCIDA; the CCIDA team; the County Legislature, local foundations, and Cornell’s Catharine Young and Emily Reynolds.
“They are all to be commended for demonstrating what we have found to be truly unique and proactive thinking, support, and collaboration,” said LaCorata. “We are proud to be part of Chautauqua County’s future.”
A summary of the Grow Chautauqua study will be available at a later date on the county website on the county executive’s page at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/186/County-Executive .