NORWICH – While local manufacturing in Chenango County has slowed, 2008 was a record year, according to Commerce Chenango officials, and some action on the economic development forefront is underway despite the nation’s lagging economy.
Commerce Chenango President Maureen Carpenter made those points clear during her annual report before the Chenango County Board of Supervisors on Monday. In addition, she presented an often-requested flow chart that depicted the organizations’ new structure and funding sources.
In 2008, Commerce Chenango assisted more than 90 existing businesses that resulted in the creation of and retention of 1,200 jobs. Of those, Carpenter highlighted Agro-Farma Inc. of New Berlin, Wagner Nineveh of Afton, and The Mid-York Press in Sherburne – all of which received funds in grants and/or loans available through Commerce Chenango.
Carpenter also pointed to several ongoing projects in Sherburne, where the newly formed Sherburne Local Development Corporation is creating its own business park and several existing employers are expanding. Development Chenango Corp. (a combination of the former Local Development Corp. and Area Corp.) helped to revise a Greater Norwich Empire Zone boundary that would include potential entities in the park and help with current businesses’ expansion plans.
Carpenter estimates that more than 200 new jobs may be created in Sherburne over the next five years.
The agency has also been working with Procter & Gamble employees, listing agents and prospects to help generate leads for the Town of Norwich property. Carpenter said one interested party is moving forward with plans to take over the Woods Corners facility.
“We hope they are. It could mean 250 jobs and and millions and millions in investment in Norwich,” she said.
Carpenter also reported interest in a former plastics factory in Greene and hopes to see a project materialize this year for a vacant manufacturing facility on Hale Street in Norwich.
Other major projects in 2008 included work to resolve the rail service issue, advocating for state Rt. 12 corridor improvements and for keeping Camp Pharsalia open, endorsing the downtown Norwich Friends of the Parks restoration project, helping new businesses get websites, and “Shop Chenango” marketing efforts.
The Chenango County Industrial Development Agency focused on cleaning up the 40-acre Earl B. Clark Business park in North Norwich in order to entice future development there. Lacking infrastructure in terms of roads and utilities is a deterrent, however.
“It is not shovel ready,” Carpenter said, referring to the type of projects that could see economic stimulus funding from Washington.
Town of Smyrna Supervisor James B. Bays asked what projects Carpenter would put on a list if the county were to be the recipient of a package from the federal government. Carpenter said returning the NYS&W Railroad to full service through Norwich would be first, followed by developing a county Rt. 32 bypass around Norwich, and water and sewer at the Clark business park next.
Bays asked whether Commerce Chenango has considered linking the natural gas play in the region with rehabilitating the railroad. “We are going to be moving significant volumes of fraking fluid,” he said, adding, “How can we be the place where businesses (related to the natural gas industry) want to locate?”
Carpenter said she had not discussed the railroad with representatives of Norse Energy, a natural gas company that is active in the area and has offices at the Eaton Center. She said her contacts at Norse’s local Nornew, Inc. office had recently changed...