Officials say a Spanish meat processor's plans to open a plant in Gloversville this spring is one of several hopeful signs economic development may be picking up in Fulton County.
Michael Reese, president of the Center for Regional Growth, told the Fulton County Board of Supervisors' Environment & Economic Development Committee last week his agency approved a $400,000 loan for the company, which plans to begin production in April, with the first products leaving the warehouse in May.
He also told supervisors he has prospective buyers for the Estee Commons apartments and an office building at 110 Decker Drive in the Crossroads Business Park, as well as a tenant for the former Finkle Distributors warehouse in the Johnstown Industrial Park.
"It seems like since the latter part of 2012 and into 2013, there seems to be a little more activity - more people looking, more people making inquiries," Reese said Monday.
"They're all good signs and I think we're going to see more of this," said Gloversville Mayor Dayton King, who added he expects the new meat processor to hire 12 to 18 workers to start, with the potential to double the work force.
King and Reese spoke without naming the company, which has asked officials to keep the name private for competitive reasons, but both confirmed it is a sausage manufacturer at 20 Harrison St.
According to public records, the company is Pata Negra, a Spanish company that produces Imperial-brand chorizo, a Spanish-style sausage. Pata Negra purchased a former Perrone Leather property at that site for $588,107 on Dec. 15, according to a deed filed in the Fulton County clerk's office. Perrone Leather is holding a $470,487 mortgage on the property, according to documents signed Dec. 21 and filed in the clerk's office.
Pata Negra's U.S. offices are on the 35th floor of the same Manhattan high-rise near Grand Central Terminal that also houses the New York City offices of Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. A call to Pata Negra's office was referred to the company's attorney, Anna Ramirez, who said she would confer with her client before commenting, but no call was returned Monday or early today.
Chorizo is a dry-cured, slightly smoky pork sausage that takes its dark red color from the same dried red peppers that make paprika. Pata Negra makes four varieties under the Imperial Chorizo name, according to its website, although they are not widely available in the United States, except for online retailers.
Reese said the company likely chose Fulton County for its cost of doing business, relatively low real-estate costs and convenient access to New York City, Boston and major Canadian markets, which are especially targeted by specialty food manufacturers.
Local food makers have been tapping into local agricultural markets. Fage, a Greek yogurt company that began production in Johnstown five years ago, soon will be using 1.3 billion pounds of local milk a year.
"The company we're talking about won't have a huge direct impact on farming or agriculture, but it is part of that same food processing and agribusiness section," Reese said Monday.
He told supervisors last week the county needs to establish a strategic plan for agricultural development, which could thrive in Fulton County despite the area's challenges. The region's glacial soil isn't conducive to all crops and has an effect on waste runoff from livestock, Reese and supervisors said. Reese also said the region doesn't have convenient access to slaughterhouses, resulting in some producers traveling to Pennsylvania.
"It's like the chicken and the egg. If there were the ability for farmers to have different types of animals slaughtered locally, it might make it more economical or make more economic sense to raise these types of animals here," he said.