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Industrial Development Agency Endorses Ski Area Projects
Story by John Thomas


   It isn’t often the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency gets to experience directly the benefits of one of its supported projects. But, this week’s meeting of its board of directors met in a shiny new conference room on the third floor of a project it backed. The IDA has supported the project and now rents office space in the Olean building. The area consists of a large comfortable boardroom, an office and a lecture hall with live streaming capability. Tuesday’s meeting was the first time the agency has used the new office space. Director Corey Wiktor said for the present time the group will still use the Ellicottville office for board meetings. However, he said, during the hot summer months of August and September, they will use the Olean board room because it has air conditioning. Mr. Wiktor will use the Olean location on a weekly basis.

The Olean Business Development building had stood empty for about the years. Two years ago a group of investors asked the IDA for sales and mortgage tax abatement for its adaptive reuse project of the building. With just about a $1 million investment, the building has been refurbished with a tea house café on the ground floor and offices for the rededicated Olean Business Development Agency taking up the second and third floors. The agency serves as an incubator for new businesses, providing them with office space and business equipment. The IDA decided about a year ago to rent space from the agency.

   Dave Trathen, Executive VP of Finance at Holiday Valley presented an application for new construction and improvement at the ski/golf resort. In introducing the project, Mr. Trathen spoke about the “roller coaster” winter with its early snow and long stretches of warm weather. He said HV’s investment in automated snowmaking allowed them to take advantage of the small windows of cold weather to make snow.   Mr. Trathen said the efficiencies of the snowmaking system allowed the resort to have a “solid year.” Over the summer the valley will make several improvements to the snowmaking equipment, make improvements to a warming hut, purchase groomers, and improve its IT capability, (See HV Summer Upgrades story).

   In comments supporting the application, Executive Director Corey Wiktor said he was impressed with the number of positive reviews the resort receives on social media. He said it was good to see one of the county’s largest employers putting money back into the business. Wiktor went on to add, in a four-year-old study it was found that county-wide the region attracts 225 million tourists per year. The majority of those tourists make their destination Holiday Valley. Furthermore, lodging numbers, including collected bed tax, are looking good for the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. The board passed a motion authorizing Director Wiktor to hold a public hearing on the project. The board also passed a positive SEQR resolution. Another board action authorized a public hearing for the Olean Manor senior community. The developers had underestimated the costs associated with its construction. They were asking to amend their application to reflect the revised costs and apply it to their sales tax relief. The change requires a new public hearing.

   3032 Penn LLC submitted an application for the purchase and renovation of the former Mosler Safe building in Franklinville. The company is also applying for a ten-year PILOT program and sales tax abatement. The plan calls for renovating the 60,000-square foot building, replacing the roof, improving lighting, and installing workspaces. When complete in the fall the company will employ 8 to 10 people manufacturing private label Christmas items to be sold through Dave’s Christmas World in West Seneca.

   For his Executive Director’s report, Mr. Wiktor said inquiries for business sites are up. Not only for empty lots, but current building stock as well. The CCIDA will be sponsoring a Consolidated Funding Application Workshop at Holiday Valley on May 31st. He added labor force continues to be a concern with manufacturing employers in the area. The current crop of skilled employees will be retiring in a few years, and the companies don’t see new skilled workers coming into the labor force. It was mentioned that county wide there are only about 900 high school graduates each year, and of those one-third go on to college, another third can’t pass employer-mandated drug tests, and part of the remainder have a poor work ethic. It was also noted Olean High School has only a 65% graduation rate. Wiktor said one of the ways to help mitigate the situation would be to have businesses work with each other to share resources.

The Olean Business Development building had stood empty for about ten years, with help from the CCIDA the building has been refurbished with a tea house café on the ground floor and offices for the rededicated Olean Business Development Agency taking up the second and third floors.