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Cattaraugus County seals deal to build new $500M Great Lakes Cheese plant

The Great Lakes Cheese building
Great Lakes Cheese
Great Lakes Cheese will expand in Franklinville under a deal sealed with the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency.

Hundreds of Southern Tier jobs are saved and hundreds more eventually will be added, while local cows will continue providing raw milk with a deal to build a new $500 million cheese factory in Franklinville.

Great Lakes Cheese had planned a new plant in Allegany County, but the land deal fell apart and there was concern it might move elsewhere, leaving the Southern Tier without another major manufacturer. The company wanted to build the plant to replace one in Cuba, but the situation became shaky when there was pushback against taking good agricultural land for the plant, on another site.

Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Corey Wiktor said the final deal is good for the community.

"There's a need of roughly 32,000 dairy cows to help support this. So our agriculture community and industry certainly needs a shot in the arm and this project is one that could deliver that," Wiktor said. "And we conservatively think there will be retention and growth of 600-jobs in the agriculture community."

A sampling of cheese manufactured by Great Lakes Cheese.
Great Lakes Cheese
A sampling of cheese manufactured by Great Lakes Cheese.

Wiktor said the plant will make lots of different kinds of cheese.

"Italian and types of American cheese. So all your pepper jack, colby jack, your swiss and various cheddars and cheeses of that nature, shredded cheeses," he said. "They do a lot with Taco Bell and the various cheeses you buy in Aldi's."

Wiktor said Great Lakes Cheese is also looking to local companies to build the plant.
"It's going to take a large mountain of men and women to build this project," he said. That's what's great with the company. They've really dedicated to utilizing local labor and suppliers and I can tell you we've already sent them numbers of companies over and they've already received bid-type packages."

The county agreed to $166 million in tax breaks, but no cash payments as part of the overall deal. It's all a sign of the continuing strength of New York's agricultural industry, because last year there was agreement on a large expansion of an ice cream plant in Dunkirk, using more local cows.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.