Long Island Regional Economic Development Council Announces Establishment of Agri-Park Facility in Suffolk County
The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council (LIREDC) today joined with representatives from the Long Island Farm Bureau (LIFB), J. Kings, Inc., and the fishing and winery industries to announce the establishment of the Agri-Park in Riverhead, Suffolk County. Supported by a $500,000 grant from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative, an innovative public-private partnership was established between local Long Island farmers, agribusinesses and J. Kings Inc., to form a food and produce processing plant that will expand local products into new markets and strengthen the agriculture industry on Long Island.
“Agriculture is a staple of Suffolk County’s economy. This project will help local family farmers expand their operations while providing neighboring businesses with locally grown produce,” said Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy. “Governor Cuomo created the Regional Councils to empower local residents, who know their areas best, with the tools for economic growth. The LIREDC developed an innovative way to support the agricultural industry and brought together the right parties to form a unique partnership that will be a model for other regions.”
“When the Council identified the Agri-Park as a priority project we sent a strong message to the region and the State, and an even stronger one today as it progresses forward on-time, that supporting and expanding the agriculture industry on Long Island is a vital part of our strategic plan for the region,” said LIREDC Co-chairs Kevin Law and Stuart Rabinowitz. “This project is a direct result of the hard work of the LIREDC, in particular the Natural Assets Work Group, and the outcome demonstrates a true partnership that would not have evolved and been implemented without the Regional Council process established by Governor Cuomo. On behalf of the Council, we want to thank the local farmers, and the Farm Bureau, for their hard work to produce the food we eat, and our friends at J. Kings, Inc. for coming together for the good of the region and our agriculture community.”
Suffolk County is New York State’s highest sales volume agriculture county due, in part, to the value of their specific crops, but for years Long Island’s many small farmers have lacked access to specialized processing, packaging and cold storage facilities to extend the shelf life of products allowing them to sell into more markets. In order to grow and strengthen the region’s agri-businesses, the LIREDC worked together to develop a plan that included the purchase of a 100,000 square foot processing plant in Riverhead by J. Kings Inc.
The company will develop a food manufacturing operation in the building while sub-dividing a 30,000+ square foot section of the building for the Long Island Farm Bureau to establish the farm products processing operation. In addition to making significant investments in cooling, vacuum processing, packaging and other equipment, the company’s wide distribution network and contacts in the food service industry will open new, previously unreachable markets for Long Island grown produce.
“Long Island Farm Bureau is pleased to be a recipient of a New York State Economic Development grant for the purpose of establishing an “Agri-Park,” said Joe Gergela, Executive Director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “The Farm Bureau is partnering with the J. Kings Food Company to have a regional facility for the cooling and storage of vegetables, fruit and Long Island wine. LIFB is appreciative of the Cuomo administration’s recognition that agriculture is one of five “economic engines” in the Empire State.”
"We are very excited to be partnering with Long Island farmers and winemakers to share Long Island's bounty with an even larger audience than ever before! Long Island’s strength as an agricultural center for over two centuries has significantly shaped how we approach our goal to create a brighter future for Long Islanders by expanding the reach of local products, while stimulating job creation and regional economic growth,” said John King, CEO of J. Kings. “We are proud to be partnering with our local farmers and the LIREDC to establish the innovative Agri-Park and hope to see this model being used throughout the agriculture industry in New York State. Additionally, we look forward to creating a Farmers Market Exchange, which would provide a centralized product pick-up location instead of the farmers or local artisans having to drive to each farm for products. We can’t wait to continue to grow and launch new initiatives to help our friends in agribusiness.”
Originally planned as a multi-million dollar agriculture processing facility on vacant land, the project evolved into an operational agri-processing plant. The Regional Council was supportive of the concept, however it lacked enough local funding matches, and most importantly it lacked a viable business model to support such an expensive facility. Working with key members of the Natural Assets Work Group, Empire State Development’s Regional Office and the Regional Council Executive Committee suggested a pilot project concept which then grew into an operational agri-processing plant.
The key element was the participation of J. Kings, Inc., which identified the vacant building in Riverhead and offered a unique way to leverage his business with the Agri-Park concept. This project will lower overhead costs for local farmers while giving them the opportunity to offer their products to a wider range of markets off Long Island because it will be vacuum sealed and flash cooled.
This project also morphed into a very unique collaboration among the farming, wine and fishing industries. The facility will be used by all these east end industries that worked collaboratively to develop and design the project. The winery industry lacks an affordable cold storage facility, which hampers their ability to increase production.
Last year, a total of $785 million was awarded through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) for job creation and community development projects consistent with each region’s strategic plans. As part of that process, the Agri-Park was awarded $500,000 from Empire State Development to be used to assist in lease costs for the partnering agribusinesses, and primarily for the smaller farmers.
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, “In his State of the State address, Governor Cuomo committed to the development of ‘food hubs’ around the State to both grow our agricultural economy and provide fresh local foods to our consumers. It is no surprise that Long Island took up that challenge and has led the way, just as they have pioneered so many important innovations in agriculture and food over the years.”
The Regional Economic Development Council Capital Fund Program and the Empire State Economic Development Fund together make available $170 million of capital grant funding for the State‘s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, which helps drive regional and local economic development across New York State in cooperation with ten Regional Economic Development Councils. Funding is available for capital-based economic development initiatives intended to create or retain jobs; prevent, reduce or eliminate unemployment and underemployment; and/or increase business activity in a community or region. In addition, $4 million from the Urban and Community Development Program is reserved for 1) development of mixed-use properties in highly distressed areas (Article 18 of the General Municipal Law) or economic development zones or 2) central business district or commercial area improvements.
Senator Kenneth P. LaValle said, “Today we celebrate the beginning of a successful public/private partnership that will enable our farmers to extend their reach and expose new markets to the wonderful produce grown on the North Fork and eastern Long Island. The Agri-Park is in keeping with my vision of creating economic and job generators and is a short distance from a project I worked on and helped secure funding for -- the Agriculture Consumer Science Center (ACSC) at the Stony Brook University Calverton Incubator that will also aid our agricultural community develop new, marketable consumer items and enhance existing product lines and, importantly, create new jobs and improve our region’s ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”
Assemblymember Dan Losquardo said, “I congratulate the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council for partnering with the Long Island Farm Bureau and the county's fisheries and wineries to introduce to our region this excellent economic engine. This new agri-processing plant will be a boon to our local businesses and will assist in maintaining the east end's valuable farming and agricultural industry. I would also like to thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this new facility.”
As part of the up to $750 million available in the second round of the Regional Council initiative, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has made $3 million from its Agriculture Development Program available through the CFA process. This program provides grants on a competitive basis to eligible applicants to assist in reducing the cost of financing the construction, expansion or renovation of agriculture projects that have a direct benefit to New York producers and significance to the region served by the eligible applicant. The goal of this program is to fund projects that will increase New York farm profitability through expansion, value added production, diversification, or long term reduction of operating costs.
To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov. For information on how the New New York is working for business, please visit www.thenewny.com.