Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan is a man with a plan.
At the League of Women Voters dinner, he recently outlined his focus for his term as county executive, including plans for Carriage House as an agri-business facility.
Horrigan said the day of the announcement of Carriage House's closure was his worst in office so far and has intensified his commitment to growing the economy.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan (standing on right) addressed the League of Women Voters recently to outline his areas of focus for his term in office. One of these was strategies for Carriage House.
The Fredonia Carriage House plant.
"Every day as I look at my schedule, clearly our economy, businesses and jobs are in that agenda every single day. ... It is days like the announcement of Carriage House ... and all of the job issues that I know are on the minds of everyone because, let's face it, we want good jobs, we want an economy that can support a quality of life and we want our kids not only to be educated here in good schools, which we have, but to stay here and come back here. So, clearly that is job number one," he said.
For the Carriage House facilities, Horrigan has a plan A and a plan B.
"When I look especially at the north county up here, agri-business and our grape industry is an area that we have got to find a way to encourage the new as we say goodbye to the old. ... What we are putting together is a two-fold strategy with Carriage House companies," he said.
Horrigan said for now, the county is working with ConAgra to bring in a new business.
"One is we are working with ConAgra to encourage and co-market that facility to a myriad of businesses and manufacturers. They are reluctant to have a competitive business in there at this point, but they are not saying 'absolutely not,' because the devastating news hurt this community and hurt this county bad. So, we do have Senator (Charles) Schumer and Governor (Andrew) Cuomo standing by and they can apply pressure at the right time should we need that to be done with ConAgra, but right now, we are working closely with them, not only for severance packages for the employees, but we want that facility to be sold, to be transformed to where another business is coming in creating jobs," he explained.
Plan B keeps with the idea of promoting agri-business in the north county.
"That's one strategy, another is an agri-business park. So, together with Empire State Development, we are going to perform a study to determine whether we can have two, three, four agri-businesses in there that support our grape industry. We think with the grape growers, the whole grape industry and the wine industry up here, if we have the right facilities and the right businesses in there, maybe not as large, probably not as large as Carriage House, but several small ones that can create the jobs and create the agri-business economy that is very important up here," he added.
Horrigan's plans followed the theme of addressing business development and the county's declining population.
"Our population is clearly something that is driving change. We are in a declining population, that is a big problem. We need to turn that around and we need to grow this county. We need more taxpayers. We have to encourage people to come here. People either come by visiting this beautiful area ... or they come for jobs," he said.
Horrigan said both manufacturing and tourism are important for the Chautauqua County economy.
He said the county has several tools to attract and keep business, including STARTUP-NY, sales tax abatement, PILOT agreements and tax credits.
Horrigan said he has plans to connect with the Buffalo-Niagara business renaissance and address problems with the workforce. He said he plans to address the education needs and the drug problem in the county, which will help get people off public assistance and positively impact the county budget and economy.
"There is a county workforce that is working darn hard for you and we all committed to one thing and that is to make this county grow," Horrigan said
He also said he has infrastructure plans for completing the sewer system around Chautauqua Lake, improving Route 60 and seeing that the North County Water District goes forward.
Horrigan also addressed the change in the county's population and how this may impact consolidation of municipal governments and schools.
Finally, he addressed the lack of voter participation in the county, especially from younger voters. He said he plans to engage Millennials in high school and college through a "Millennial 100" initiative.
Leaguers were given the opportunity to ask Horrigan questions. Most of these centered around climate change. Horrigan responded by saying he has created an environmental management committee in the county legislature and has plans to improve the county's environment through green energy and improving conditions in Chautauqua Lake.