Towns request stimulus funds to boost business

KEESEVILLE - The town of Chesterfield is one of several towns in Essex County hoping the federal economic stimulus package will give a much-needed shot in the arm to the local economy.

Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) sent a letter to officials in both state and federal government requesting $10 million from the economic stimulus package; money he hopes to use to encourage industrial development in his town.

"My idea of stimulating the economy is to make more jobs," Morrow said.

The money would be used to assist two businesses that intend to move into the shovel-ready Chesterfield Commerce Park. The park, currently empty, is APA-permitted for industrial structures is already equipped with crucial infrastructure like water, sewer, and paved roads.

One of the businesses, Champlain Valley Specialty, currently operates their fruit packaging facility on Thompson Road in Keeseville. Since starting in 2002, they have grown to employ nearly 40 full-time employees. According to company co-owner Jerry Dygert, moving their business into a larger facility would allow them to increase production by as much as 500 percent, and nearly double their workforce. The project is estimated to cost $5-6 million.

Another company, Essex Box and Pallet, also operates in Keeseville and is looking to diversify its production to include a wood pellet manufacturing plant. Their plan includes expanding operations at its current location in the Keeseville Industrial Park and eventually building a new facility in the Chesterfield park. The proposal would add as many as fifteen new full-time jobs. Altogether, the price tag is estimated at nearly $4 million.

Both companies cited a limited ability to borrow funds for expansion in the current economic climate, and warned that an inability to expand might make them unable to compete, ultimately forcing them to close.

If allotted, Morrow said the stimulus funds would likely be passed on to the two businesses in the form of a low-interest or no-interest loan.

"Other counties have money to give to businesses," said Morrow, noting the challenge of attracting and retaining industries without significant capital funding for industrial development. He said some businesses have left Essex County in favor of better financial support elsewhere in New York State.

For now, however, Chesterfield and other Essex County municipalities will have to wait and see if their stimulus wish-lists are granted.

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