BATH – Steuben County officials announced today (Friday, April 29, 2016) a groundbreaking plan to partner with local municipal officials and economic development agencies in boosting local farmers’ revenues by $1.3 million. County Manager Jack Wheeler said the county will participate in a multiphase plan beginning with the construction of a Food, Agriculture and Education Center, or Food Hub, at the corner of East Washington and Liberty Street in the village of Bath. "We’re excited to do this," Wheeler said. "This location may be the best place in the county to develop a strong foundation for future agricultural growth. And everyone concerned is on board and enthusiastic about these plans." Steuben County, with the Village of Bath, Town of Bath, Steuben County Agricultural Society, Steuben County Industrial Development Agency, Three Rivers Development Corporation, county Conference and Visitors Bureau, and Save-the- Lyon, Inc. have partnered in a year-long study of expanded development of the county Fairgrounds and adjoining properties. "The Village of Bath has been an active participant and supporter of this and we are excited to see the opportunities a food hub will bring to our community," said Bath Village Mayor Bill von Hagn. "This is the first of what I hope will be a continued investment in the overall vision of the expanded use of the fairgrounds." The plan fits into the county’s most recent, 10-year Farmland Protection Plan, which was adopted by the county Legislature last year. The protection plan looks to build on Steuben’s strong agricultural industry as a key economic driver in the future. Preliminary plans by LaBella Associates call for the "food hub" to become a central location for collecting, processing, packaging and distributing local agricultural products. It would include a kitchen incubator and a restaurant incubator, both offering affordable rents to encourage entrepreneurs. The center also would offer market-rate office space and is expected to employ 40 people, at the center and participating farms. It is estimated the food hub would generate $1.3 million for Steuben farmers. Continued, Page 2.The cost of the center, estimated at $3.9 million, is expected to be offset largely through grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI), the state Community Development Block Grant – Economic Development, and USDA Rural Business Economic Development.
Construction could begin as early as the spring of 2017. "I’ve been advocating for us to do something, for a long time," said county Legislature Chairman, Joe Hauryski, R-Campbell. "We’ve needed this, it fits Bath and the fairgrounds, and it opens up so many avenues. It would be super if this becomes the cornerstone, a spark to get things going." Options for construction on the site, the location of the former Dana Lyon Middle School, are still under consideration and will be released by the county at a later date, Wheeler said. Any option will preserve the Waterman Arts Center, located next to the school, Wheeler said.
The new center would be located next to the county Fairgrounds, which is included in future plans, based on available funding and feasibility. Supporters of renovations to the fairgrounds – which will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2019 – hope to increase use of the grounds, now in limited use. "Steuben County Agricultural Society is enthused about the potential food hub being located in the Bath area as it fits well with the mission of the County Fair, ‘To Promote Agriculture in Our Area’," said Nick Pelham, secretary of the Steuben County Agricultural Society and Fair Manager. "We feel it will go well with the future vision of the Fairgrounds property."