JOHNSTOWN — In his third annual state of the county address, Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort talked about the need for his county to invest in its future and highlighted the county’s Exit 29 redevelopment site as a prime example.
“I’m going to try to control myself as I talk about this. This is a very important project for me personally,” Ossenfort said. “The continued revitalization of Canajoharie and the Mohawk Valley’s industrial and Erie Canal heritage assets remains a top priority, not only for us, but for the region,” Ossenfort said. “The Exit 29 development site is well positioned for re-use with an organized coalition of municipal governments, local economic development agencies and stakeholders already in place. This project can be catalyst site for the entire region, by serving as a shining example of industrial structure re-use to support the revival of an area’s identity.”
The Exit 29 redevelopment project is aimed at cleaning up the former Beech-Nut baby food plant, which takes up about one third of the downtown of the village of Canajoharie and faces an expensive clean-up and redevelopment effort, which Ossenfort explained has been broken into two distinct efforts.
“On the eastern side, it’s being treated as more of a traditional economic development project, We have to do the demolition and remediation and then market the site to the private sector. We are well on our way.
“We’ve leveraged over $1 million in resources from everywhere from the state, to the federal government to the Montgomery County IDA, which I believe has put about $100,000 already into this project, and, as we move forward, I’ll be calling on the Legislature to look to provide additional local funding as we look to get this demolition and remediation done this spring and summer,” he said.
“On the western side is the more creative and exciting opportunity as we look to do some adaptive reuse, some selective demolition, but this is going to take some time. These aren’t going to be projects that get finished the next time I give this speech, or, if I’m lucky enough, even two or three times down the road.”
Ossenfort spoke for about 45 minutes at Fulton Montgomery Community College Wednesday night, after being introduced by FMCC President Dustin Swanger and Johnstown Holiday Inn General Manager James Landrio. Ossenfort’s speech was live-streamed on Montgomery County’s facebook.com page, a first for the county. The state of the county speech was sponsored by the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Ossenfort talked about a variety of accomplishments of Montgomery County’s new form of government including: its recent selection as one as one of six local governments in New York state set to compete for a $20 million state grant to promote government consolidation; the $91 million Dollar General Distribution Center project, set to begin construction in the town of Florida business park in the spring; $700,000 in state grants received to pay for the resurfacing the entire portion of the Erie Canalway Trail; and $8 million in grants received to help revitalize waterfronts, remediate brownfields and foster private- sector job growth. Ossenfort said Montgomery County’s private sector job growth has recently outpaced the state average and the county achieved its lowest unemployment rate in 10 years, all while staying under the state tax cap for the third consecutive year
“Our goal is to cultivate transformative change for our region,” Ossenfort said.
Ossenfort, also talked about future initiatives, including a new project supported by the Mohawk Country Heritage Association, along with the chamber of commerce to renew efforts to promote American Revolution sites in Montgomery County.
“There is more here than you can ever imagine,” he said. “You might say, ‘who’s really going to come here to see this stuff?’ Well, these bus tours that come in are packed with people and they can visit a whole host of sites.”
Another project he discussed was the 260-acre proposed regional business park, which would be built on land currently in the town of Mohawk, although the land would likely be annexed into the city of Johnstown. Both Fulton and Montgomery County have passed tax revenue sharing agreements for the park, if it’s built.
“We don’t have a lot of large-scale sites, so we have to turn away leads because we don’t have these large sites, so that’s incredibly important,” he said of the proposed park.