Herkimer County’s efforts to redevelop its brownfield sites have started to bear fruit with the village of Ilion approving the $100,000 sale of the former Duofold long-john factory to local investors in late June.
The identity of the investors has not been disclosed as they undertake a 120-day environmental review before closing on the property, according to John J. Piseck, Jr., executive director of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency (HCIDA).
The long-vacant, 14-acre brownfield site in the village of Ilion has a rich history. In the 1800s, it was a racetrack. In the 1900s, bookcases for the Library of Congress, shells for the U.S. Navy, and adding machines were manufactured there. Univac made some of the first computers there. It was the site of the Herkimer Community College for some time as well.
“The building has great bones,” Piseck says. “It’s really a strong, sturdy building built by craftsmen back in the day. That’s really what we think will make a difference.”
About two years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $200,000 grant to HCIDA to assess brownfield sites throughout Herkimer County, including the Duofold site. The Village of Ilion purchased the site Ilion in May 2019.
Herkimer County has had other recent positive developments in its economic development as well.
Last year, the IDA purchased land that added about 188 acres to the Schuyler Business Park.
Both sprayer manufacturer The Fountainhead Group and beverage manufacturer Pepsi are constructing warehouse-distribution facilities in the new section of the park. As a result, 200 jobs are being added to the community, Piseck says.
Fountainhead, based in New York Mills, is constructing a 200,000-square-foot distribution facility. It purchased almost 50 acres in the park and has drawn up plans for another 200,000 square feet, Piseck says. The company could eventually expand out to 800,000 square feet.
The Fountainhead Group manufactures high-quality pump sprayers, backpack sprayers, mosquito foggers, fire pumps, and more for home and professional use.
Pepsi is looking to break ground in the fall on its 61,000-square foot facility, Piseck says. Site work is underway now. It will replace Pepsi’s current facility on Broad Street in Utica.
Existing tenants at the business park are also expanding.
One of the original tenants of the park, Wilcor International, is making a 50,000-square-foot expansion to its existing building. Wilcor is a wholesale supplier of camping equipment and supplies.
In another economic development in another part of Herkimer County, retail giant Amazon will be putting a facility in the 5S North Business Park in Frankfort.
It’ll be a “last mile” facility in which Amazon deliveries will be made in the local region out of the facility, Piseck says.
Hale Manufacturing, the prior occupant of the building, sold its building to a developer — that firm will rent to Amazon — and has relocated to Cosby Manor Road and is renovating the facility to meet its needs.
The Herkimer County IDA also won $1 million in federal grant funding for water-infrastructure development this year. In that project, a nine-mile water transmission line will be run between Schuyler and Herkimer. The 24-inch main waterline will run down Route 5 and will allow each nearby community to tap in.
“We need a better water solution for some of the community,” Piseck says.
The IDA also has won money for a food-processing study to identify opportunities for that industry in the county, he says.
“COVID made people wonder where their food was coming from,” Piseck says in explaining the purpose of the study.
Overall, Piseck says that the COVID-19 pandemic did not dent the atmosphere for economic development in Herkimer County.
“You look at the ream of businesses,” he notes. “We have Pepsi. We have Amazon. We have Tractor Supply. We have Fountainhead.”
In 2019, retailer Tractor Supply opened a 925,000-square-foot distribution center in Frankfort. ν