On the Move

Chautauqua County

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Known for its scenic beauty, charming towns, and villages, and rich industrial history, Chautauqua County is a place where tourism flourishes and business thrives. The Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency is leading the county’s economic growth.
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Chautauqua County is located at the western edge of New York State and bordered by Lake Erie to the north. The county contains two cities – Jamestown and Dunkirk – as well as twenty-seven towns and fifteen villages. This rural area is home to 138,000 residents but located near several major metropolitan areas including Pittsburg, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Toronto. A low cost of living, convenient access to several major highways, and a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options makes Chautauqua County a wonderful place to live and work. It is also a popular tourist destination.

Once a booming industrial area, Chautauqua County suffered due to the regional decline of heavy manufacturing. “[Dunkirk and Jamestown] are old industrial towns and, like the rest of the Northeast, a lot of the industrial businesses have moved south,” explains Kevin Sanvidge, chief executive officer of the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) and director of planning and economic development for Chautauqua County.

CCIDA is devoted to revitalizing the county’s economy and has worked at this for more than thirty years, by raising and diversifying its economic base. The agency’s efforts focus on supporting local businesses, attracting new businesses, and promoting tourism within the county.

Chautauqua County is home to multiple manufacturing companies including Cummins Engine and Ralston Purina, as well as food processing facilities and many small businesses. The CCIDA is committed to investing in these businesses.

“We have a lot of tools we use to help maintain the businesses we have and to attract businesses,” Sanvidge states. One such program is the AL Tech Revolving Loan Fund, which offers loans up to $1M for local businesses that will increase their employment rates. The program is especially beneficial for new businesses or businesses facing credit challenges. “It’s our job to take a chance on some of these businesses.”

The CCIDA partners with the county’s workforce investment board to ensure that the county can provide enough qualified workers to meet the demands of its businesses. “We have several agencies that are working with high school students and recent graduates of high school, technical schools, and junior colleges, making sure that we have the right curriculum to prepare students to be able to find jobs in this area.” Recognizing that a skilled workforce is paramount to the success of the county’s businesses, the agency and its partners are investing in relevant training and education for the next generation of workers.

The CCIDA also strives to recruit new employers to the area and has a strong marketing arm dedicated to attracting businesses. “We’re ‘On the Move’,” says Sanvidge, quoting the agency’s tagline. “We’re aggressive. We go out and try to attract new businesses. We don’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring…We use every avenue available to get our message out.” The message is a strong one: Chautauqua County is ready to welcome new businesses and offers many incentives for doing business here.

To business looking to establish new facilities in Chautauqua County, the development agency offers generous tax abatements through state and county programs. These include reductions of property taxes, mortgage recording taxes, and sales tax on all building materials. The state’s Start-Up NY Program eliminates all taxes for up to ten years for new employers, including state income taxes, and the Excelsior Jobs Program provides fully refundable tax credits based on the number of jobs created. Multiple brownfield sites are available for industrial redevelopment, with a twenty percent rebate on every dollar of the costs of redevelopment.

With such valuable incentives to do business here, it is no wonder companies are choosing Chautauqua County. Cutting edge pharmaceutical manufacturer Athenex has picked Dunkirk for its newest facility. The company will break ground on the $1.6 billion project in 2017. New York State will provide nearly $200 million in incentives; the CCIDA was also instrumental in the site selection process, showing locations and offering additional incentives. The new facility will employ nine hundred people in Chautauqua County.

Nuova Castelli Group, an Italian producer of specialty cheeses, recently selected Chautauqua County as the location for its first U.S. facility. The company has acquired an existing food processing plant and will invest millions of dollars to upgrade the facility. The county’s strategic location offers room for expansion, access to transportation infrastructure, and an abundant supply of milk. “They buy all of their milk for the cheese locally, including a lot from the Amish farmers,” Sanvidge explains.

Chautauqua County will be the site of several wind power projects beginning this year. The strong winds coming from Lake Erie and the availability of rural land make it an ideal location for wind farms. A $500 million project will yield hundreds of jobs and produce sustainable energy for years to come. “These windmills will generate power for school districts, the town that they’re located in, and the county, over the next thirty years,” says Sanvidge.

Chautauqua County boasts dozens of historical, cultural, and educational attractions, and each city or town features distinctive shopping and dining options. With fifty-six miles of lakefront along Lake Erie as well as scenic Lake Chautauqua, the area offers many outdoor recreation activities. The development agency has been tremendously successful in boosting tourism to the county in recent years, bringing visitors, jobs, and increased tax revenues.

Last year the Chautauqua Region Economic Development Corporation, a branch of the CCIDA, hosted the PGA Tour’s Web.com Tour. The professional golf tournament provided tremendous exposure for Chautauqua County. Viewed by more than eighty-one million people, the tournament is expected to draw tourists as well as new residents and businesses to the area.

Home to the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum and Center for Comedy and the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, Jamestown is preparing to welcome a new attraction: the National Comedy Center. The $25 million project was funded through a public-private partnership and features an interactive comedy venue, along with exhibits honoring America’s greatest comedians. The center is expected to attract several million tourists each year.

Whether it is comedy, sports, or outdoor adventures, Chautauqua County truly offers something for everyone. In response to the substantial growth of tourism, five new hotels are currently being built in the area. “The fact that they’re building hotels and condominiums shows that tourism is working,” Sanvidge states.

Indeed, the CCIDA’s strategies for creating growth in industry and tourism are proving extremely successful. By diversifying the county’s economic base, the agency is truly making it a better place to live, work, and play.

April 26, 2017, 1:46 PM EDT