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News of Otsego County

economy

Cooperstown Distillery celebrates expansion with ribbon cutting while touting local businesses
Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, left, and Eugene Marra cut the ceremonial ribbon in front of Cooperstown Distillery. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego)

Cooperstown Distillery celebrates expansion
with ribbon cutting,
while touting local businesses

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – The mood was jovial Saturday, June 12, as about 60 people, including elected officials state Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, gathered outside the Cooperstown Distillery on Railroad Avenue for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the expansion to celebrate what is considered a big success for local businesses in particular and a revitalization of Railroad Avenue specifically.

Eugene Marra, the founder of Cooperstown Distillery, began with an emotional moment on losing his dad to the coronavirus. He said his dad was his “biggest fan and number one investor in this opportunity.”

However, the atmosphere was celebratory.

“It’s an auspicious occasion for sure,” Marra said. “As much as I want to claim it as my own, I want to share it all with you because you have made it possible,” Marra said.

Eugene Marra, founder of Cooperstown Distillery, speaks in front of the Distillery ahead of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Marra spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of opening the expanded brewery on Railroad Avenue. He talked about how COVID had delayed the opening a year and how the distillery was tasked with producing hand sanitizer during that time.

He also mentioned how he was initially told by real estate agents that opening a distillery in Cooperstown was not possible.

“I like to believe we are responsible for what has become a revitalization of Railroad Avenue,” Marra said, saying that industry on that street in years past, “appeared to be dead.”

Marra said that Cooperstown Distillery, which has been around for eight years, is the “story about how it takes a village … the village of Cooperstown.”

Marra said he was loaned about $100,000 and received state fund grants of about $80,000, citing that his success was thanks to “local money.”

“We all hear these phrases, buy local, shop local, stay local. We are all of that,” Marra said, calling the Cooperstown Distillery the “fabric of this community on a very local, grassroots level.”

“We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than the village of Cooperstown,” Marra said.

Tillapaugh said the Cooperstown Distillery is a business “in which the village takes a great deal of pride.”

She noted how the village implemented zoning law changes in order to help grow businesses.

“I certainly know what this Railroad Avenue looked like for decades,” Tillapaugh said.

She noted it was once not considered industrially viable, but that developments on the street, including the distillery and the Railroad Inn, created “positive synergy.”

DiNapoli joked he didn’t accept the invitation “because of the complimentary drinks,” but was happy to come because of how difficult a year it had been.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks in front of Cooperstown Distillery. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego.com).

DiNapoli said that while Cooperstown is known for its Baseball Hall of Fame and Fenimore art museum that “the distillery becomes yet another reason to visit.”

“This really was an incredible effort with all stakeholders playing their role. That’s usually not how it happens,” DiNapoli said. “This is the model that should be replicated.”

DiNapoli said he was going to go back to Albany and tell other lawmakers to “look to what happened in Cooperstown as an example of how it should work” in terms of state funding for local businesses.

After the ceremony, people took a tour of the distillery.

 

 

BUTTERMAN: ‘‘Dazzling’ Green Energy Best Bet On The Future For New York’s Citizens
LETTER from DAN BUTTERMANN

‘Dazzling’ Green Energy Best Bet
On The Future For New York’s Citizens

To the Editor:

The next New York State budget is on its way to passage, and with the federal stimulus of $12.6 billion it will not be as bad as projected. But there are still many problems ahead. Our state had a budget deficit before the pandemic, and a declining population, which the census will likely confirm later this year.

We must look for new ways to bring people back to New York. Without more people, our state will continue to suffer, and the problems will continue to grow. What is one way to bring people back?

More jobs!

How do we get more jobs? By investing strategically in the industries of the future, and we can do that without hurting businesses already here.

Green energy has dazzling potential. It is the industry with the fastest growing job basis in the country, and these jobs pay higher than average.

We need the energy too. New York has some of the highest utility rates in the country, and investment in green energy will lower energy costs, because the costs for renewable energy continue to go down.

Recognizing the value of green energy, the legislature passed the Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act in 2019. This bill outlined clear and achievable targets to increase renewable energy production, storage and energy infrastructure.

Plus, it recognized that many communities across New York have been left behind and disadvantaged economically, so it makes sure that large parts of the investment go to these communities.

Our region has been left behind by Albany for far too long. This bill may start to change that. Of course, the question comes up of how to pay for these upgrades. We cannot print money like the federal government, so the answer is the Climate & Community Investment Act.

This bill will set taxes and charges against those businesses that pollute the most. The revenue will be turned into direct reinvestment in our state.

I support this legislation because it answers the question of how to pay for a specific state program. It may not be a perfect bill, it should be debated, and that debate can certainly make it better.

The results of this bill will help our region, and for that we all have reason to support it.

DAN BUTTERMANN
Oneonta

Sensible Plan Surfaces To Ensure Energy For Industry

Editorial For August 17, 2018

Sensible Plan Surfaces To

Ensure Energy For Industry

When Otsego Now Executive Director Jody Zakrevsky was Schoharie County economic developer, a Canadian firm was a half-step away from buying long-vacant Guilford Mills, that rambling complex to the right of I-88 as you drive to Albany.
All that was lacking was a letter from the mayor, assuring the company would be guaranteed sufficient power to conduct business.
Such a letter was forthcoming, but the last line read, “except in case of flood.”
As you can imagine, the president of the Canadian company saw that and the deal was dead. Who would want to invest millions in a complex where, “in case of flood,” production could come to a standstill?

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – Binghamton area activitist Bill Huston videotapes the Oneonta Town Board meeting Aug. 8, surrounded by 100 or so natural-gas opponents.

Oh, poor Otsego County.
Our poverty rate (16.3 percent) is a couple of points higher than the state (14.7) and national (14), per http:/datausa.io, interesting site.
Our median household income ($49,609) is substantially lower than the state ($62,908) and nation ($57,617).
Our population is declining (0.68 percent), almost three times as fast as the state’s (0.26). Nationally, population is rising (0.53).
And it’s been proved we lack the energy – in particular, natural gas – needed to attract economic development here.
In fact, a team put together by Otsego Now – it includes Lou Allstadt, no natural-gas groupie (quite the opposite) – has been meeting with NYSEG President Taylor over the past few months on this very issue.

Today, the county gets natural gas through a pipeline from DuRuyter, near Cortland, but the line is old and too narrow. NYSEG pledged to expand it, and obtained a rate increase to finance it – the pricetag is an astonishing $100 million – but is backing away.

Then, the energy cavalry arrives, in the form of a sensible idea!
Instead of waiting for NYSEG to act (or not), why not install a gas decompression station, perhaps in the former Pony Farm (the Oneonta Commerce Park, right off Interstate 88’s Exit 13)?
Otsego Now thought so, and has applied for a $3 million CFA grant to help pay for the cost, perhaps $17 million (maybe somewhat less).
Prudently, Jody Zakrevsky asked to brief the Oneonta Town Board at its regular meeting last week, to make sure it was in the loop. When he arrived, 100 of our region’s anti-gas true believers were there to grill him and paint nightmare scenarios.
We’ve seen this drill before. But we shouldn’t take it to mean there’s widespread local opposition to the idea.
Sustainable Otsego and similar environmental groups have powerful social-media tools that can summon the troops at short notice. If anything, 100 is a paltry number, given the 300+ brought to those 2015 hearings on the Constitution Pipeline.
According to Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood, about half the crowd was local, but some came from as far away as Ithaca, 75 miles. Another, quoted on www.AllOTSEGO.com, was from Oxford, 45 miles and a county away.
Town board members didn’t have to make any decision that night, but Wood estimates they are split, 2-2. If funding comes through, the plant will probably need a Zoning Board of Appeals vote; this was just a prelude.

At base, the decompression station is a sensible, low-impact way to overcome the key obstacle to economic development.
Lacking a pipeline like the Constitution, gas is being compressed so, as a liquid, it can be transported in tanker trucks to a decompression station, then turned back into gas and delivered to customers through existing gas lines.
Many sensible people object to too-big XNG gas trucks traversing two-lane Routes 205 and 80, and they’re right. Two rigs so far have toppled over due to soft shoulders. But this plan would allow gas trucks to stay on I-88 except for a quick left and a second quick left into Pony Farm. Just what most people want.
Zakrevsky estimates two, maybe three trucks a winter would be required so that Oneonta’s major institutions – the colleges, Fox Hospital and the like – would no longer be on an “interruptible” regimen. Right now, whenever there’s a cold snap – a couple of weeks a winter – they have to shift to more-expensive and more-polluting fuel oil.
Even better, the decompression station would assure a dependable energy source to anyone seeking to locate at the D&H yards, which has everything else – space, rail, proximity to an Interstate and airport.
Let’s not be Cobleskill. Let’s not declare, “except in case of flood.” The numbers, and what we see around us, prove it: We need more and better jobs.
Let’s not be diverted. When an opportunity arises, let’s declare, “Otsego County: Open for Business,” and mean it.

ZAGATA: Christians Told: Help The Poor, But Resist Continental Pipeline

Column by Mike Zagata, April 27, 2018

Christians Told: Help The Poor,

But Resist Continental Pipeline

Mike Zagata

Each week while attending church, a member of the clergy reminds us of our responsibility to assist the poor. Doing so is important and something engrained in us by our parents.
It is especially important in this area because we are part of Appalachia, a region known for its poverty. Indeed, according to Catholic Charity’s definition of poverty, 30 percent, or three out of 10 of Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie counties’ residents live in poverty.
What is interesting about this is that, when the issue of exploring for natural gas in New York was being debated, Oneonta’s churches inserted a flyer opposing fracking for natural gas in their weekly bulletins. The direct result was the loss of the jobs that would have come to the area and thus help lift people out of poverty.
That includes jobs for the BOCES graduates trained as welders, heavy-equipment operators and surveyors.

At the time, there was valid concern that this misunderstood process might contaminate our water and air. Those concerns have not been realized in Pennsylvania and that economy has prospered – more people have jobs as a result.
However, it just seemed inconsistent with what I was hearing about helping the poor to oppose something that could have helped lift them out of poverty.
The real impact on the poor wasn’t fully understood at the time. However, it is now crystal clear.

Otsego Now director Tom Armao alerts Assistant USDA Secretary Anne Hazlett to NYSEG’s failure to provide sufficient natural gas or electricity to Otsego County. With him at the Rural Development Forum at Hartwick College Friday, April 20, was Brooks’ BBQ President Ryan Brooks.

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), now owned by a company headquartered in Spain, was counting on the new source of natural gas and the Constitution Pipeline to enable it to provide Oneonta with the gas it needs.
That means not just gas needed for us to grow, but enough gas (and electricity in the form of three-phase power) to be able to supply the needs of the businesses, institutions and residences that are here now.
NYSEG brings gas to Oneonta via a pipeline from DeRuyter. That pipeline is in a state of disrepair after decades of neglect, and Iberdrola, NYSEG’s Spanish owner, isn’t interested in spending the money it would take to repair the pipeline to the degree that it could deliver enough gas to meet existing demand, no less improve it to the point that it could meet demand from projected growth.
They look at Oneonta as being stagnant and thus not a good place to invest capital. Some are questioning whether or not they are living up to their franchise agreement to provide an adequate gas supply.

You might not know this, but our some of our educational institutions and the hospital are on what is known as “curtailment” with regards to their natural gas supply. That means, if it gets too hot or too cold and the overall demand for natural gas increases beyond NYSEG’s ability to supply it, those institutions must replace their use of natural gas for heating with oil-fired generators.

That is more expensive and increases air pollution.
Things are so bad that Lutz Feed bought a new gas-fired dryer to reduce the moisture content of stored corn and NYSEG told them not to hook it up. Why? because there wasn’t enough natural gas. What does that tell us about the likelihood of Oneonta being able to attract new businesses and manufacturers that could provide jobs to those who need jobs and to the young people who might like to remain here?
The next time the basket is passed in church, put in a little extra to help the poor. You see, we helped keep them that way.

Mike Zagata, former DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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