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NYS Senator Borrello discussed Empire State Brands Initiative

NYS Senator George Borrello (left) was the special program presenter during the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club’s Nov. 26 Rural-Urban Day event held at the Lakeshore Assembly of God Church in Westfield. John Hamels (right), Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club President, welcomed Senator Borrello to the session. The Empire State Brands initiative was the topic of Senator Borrello’s presentation given to a group of high school students, guests and Rotarians. Submitted Photo.

On his first official day as NYS Senator for Senate District 57, Senator George Borrello was the featured program presenter during the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville’s Nov. 26 “Rural-Urban Day,” which was held at the Lakeshore Assembly of God Church in Westfield. Mr. Borrello’s program outlined the Empire State Brands (ESB) project from its concept through its marketing strategy.

Invited guests to this special Rotary program included 38 high school students and school representatives from the four school districts of Brocton, Chautauqua Lake, Sherman, and Westfield Academy and Central School. Rotarians and community members were also in attendance. Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club President John Hamels welcomed all to the session.

This Rotary club’s annual event titled “Rural-Urban Day” was started in the early 1970’s by Rotarians Steve and Helen Baran. They established the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club’s tradition of inviting local agribusiness people, farmers, processors and anyone associated with agriculture to attend an annual, special program to learn more about agriculture and its economic impact in our county.

Senator George Borrello was born and raised in Silver Creek. He graduated from Fredonia High School and Purdue University. He is a businessman and a politician. Borrello served four terms as a Chautauqua County Legislator, and in 2017, he was elected as County Executive. In the 2019 general election, Borrello was elected as the NYS Senator for District 57. He and his wife Kelly reside in Sunset Bay.

“The overall concept of the ESB initiative is to have Chautauqua County serve as a centralized hub for the processing and distribution of quality hops, malt and specialty grains serving the craft beverage, bakeries and functional food sectors,” stated Senator Borrello. Key points of his program included innovation, process flow, operational plan, impact on farmers, phased ag-products introduction, and marketing.

Borrello said, “The concept for this project started a couple of years ago when then NYS Senator Cathy Young and I were touring the Cornell facility in Portland. We learned that in the pre-Civil War era, NYS was the top producer of hops in our country. Now almost 95% of the hops supply is grown in Washington State, yet most of the consumers of hops are on the East Coast. Hops and other grains can be successfully grown here. Why not grow quality hops and grains here, and harvest, process, store, and ship them from here?”

He continued, “Right now we have the Grape Growers Cooperative, and we can establish a cooperative effort with the hops and other grains. We have experts in growing hops now. We have farmers with the acreage and years of experience. Plus, we have support from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. After a $120, 000 feasibility study was conducted in August of 2019, the ESB was officially started by Chris LaCorata. We put in a consolidated funding application to NYS, and ESB was chosen to be funded to the tune of $3.2 million.”

Borrello noted that ESB will combine three industries and service four markets under one integrated supplier using a vertical integration model. Also, he stated, “U.S. big grain producers utilize a 17-step process that may include up to 5 middlemen, and the grain is transported five separate times from its harvest to its end-markets. With ESB, we have reduced the process flow to 12 steps, which is a 30% reduction in steps from the planting and growing of hops and other grains through to the packaging and transportation to the customers. We will utilize an integrated platform, instead of fragmented chains, which will help to reduce costs and waste, and will build scale and a substantial supply base for the Eastern U.S. ESB will be the first of its kind in our nation.”

In terms of the operational plan, Senator Borrello stated that “Chautauqua County will serve as a centralized operations hub. Up to 4,200 acres are needed from farmers for the growing of hops, grains and barley. Our key focus is on Chautauqua County, and then we will expand out into neighboring counties.” Borrello said that ESB is looking at vacant commercial space in Chautauqua County to serve as one sizeable facility site. Outbound distribution will go to key markets in Buffalo, Erie, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and all of NYS, including NY City, which are all within a day’s reach.

He noted, “Believe it or not, we here in Chautauqua County are about one day’s drive of 25% of the U.S. population. Since the biggest buyer of American grown hops is Canada, our county has a geographical advantage. Quebec and Ontario are key Canadian export markets.”

On the topic of the impact on farmers, Borrello discussed growing contracts, crop diversification, deferred farm costs, and growing / harvesting support. He said, “With the right training, our farmers can do this. Some already are doing this. There will be efficiency with scale. ESB will offer training modules and best practices sessions on the 23-step process in hops production.”

He noted that ESB plans to use three phases for its wholesale and retail growth of its NYS products. Phase 1 includes the wholesale ingredients; Phase 2 is its e-commerce platform, such as for the home beverage brewing market; and Phase 3 is functional foods.

“This is not just about beer. It’s about a truly diverse market,” Mr. Borrello stated. “ESB will market and brand the company and its product, while having partners with the growers. Right now, our dairy farmers are really struggling. The cost of doing business as a farmer in NYS is more than double than in PA. We need to diversify our products. If farmers grow grains for livestock now, with the right training they can grow grains like hops and barley.”

The ESB initiative states that its major goal to be achieved by 2025 is to have “Chautauqua County and Western NY be considered as a world class growing community and East Coast supplier of hops and grains all over the world.” Mr. Borrello said, “Agriculture is the number one industry in Chautauqua County. How do we continue that for our children and future generations? We don’t want to compete with the Midwest and Anheuser-Busch. We want to work with craft brewers.”

To the high school teens in the audience, Mr. Borrello said, “You young adults here are the future of growth in Chautauqua County. We hope that you stay here after you graduate high school.” After answering some questions from those who were present, Borrello concluded his program by saying, “This is a great place to live. I love our area. The Empire State Brands project is about creating sustainability so that you, your children and your grandchildren can stay here and enjoy our area. This is a new day.”

On behalf of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville, Club President John Hamels presented Senator Borrello with a small gift of appreciation and also a club trading banner. The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club applauds NYS Senator George Borrello and those involved with the ESB project as they launch this industry in Chautauqua County. For more information about ESB, contact Chris LaCorata at clacorata@gmail.com.

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