Economic development leader for Orleans has helped put together numerous projects in county
Gabrielle Barone is recognized for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ by Chamber of Commerce
ALBION – Add it all up, and the investments top $200 million.
Since Gabrielle Barone joined the Orleans Economic Development Agency in April 2002, companies have spent lots of money upgrading facilities or building new in Orleans County.
Barone, vice president of business development for the Orleans EDA, had a role in many of the undertakings, helping to guide local and state government support for the projects, whether it be with infrastructure upgrades for the sites or securing tax credits or grants to make the projects a reality in Orleans County.
She is being honored this evening with a “Lifetime Achievement” award from the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has its annual awards banquet at Tillman’s Village Inn.
There have been significant projects all across the county in Barone’s tenure with the EDA. The ethanol plant in Medina is the biggest investment at $90 million-plus by Western New York Energy.
Barone and the EDA worked to upgrade Bates Road, a rail line, and secure low-cost hydropower and other incentives for the project to come to the community.
Just down from the ethanol plant, she has been a part of several expansions at Brunner, including the most recent one in 2014 that topped $15 million.
Just west of the ethanol plant on Maple Ridge Road, Pride Pak is building a new $15 million vegetable processing facility. Takeform Architectural Graphics also expanded and moved into the former Trek building on Maple Ridge.
“She is very knowledgeable and strong willed,” said Jim Whipple, executive director of the Orleans EDA. “She has great people skills and a natural feel for politics.”
Barone is part of a three-person EDA staff that puts together many complicated economic development deals. The EDA board of directors and local officials also have been active with many of the projects, Barone said.
“No one achieves on their own,” she said.
Barone said it takes takes determination to see the projects through to the last detail. While juggling work with existing companies in the county, the EDA also needs to be laying the groundwork for projects that could be many years away.
That takes a commitment from local governments to put in water and sewer infrastructure, roads and other infrastructure, knowing the payoff may not be right away, Barone said.
The EDA has worked for years to make a 125-acre site “shovel ready.” The Keppler site in Shelby is just south of Maple Ridge Road by GCC. The infrastructure is in place to serve a manufacturer that would be a big user of water and sewer.
She thinks about how the EDA chipped away at many sites, sometimes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to clear land, do environmental cleanups, and get infrastructure in place. Many in the community second guess the work, questioning the wisdom of the upfront expense.
“You’re going to get roasted,” Barone said about some of the skeptics. “It can take years laying the groundwork. If you’re going to do this kind of work you better be resilient. You better be able to take a setback and bounce back.”
Barone said the EDA often has often been a finalist for a project, after months and sometimes years of working with a developer. And then they pick someone else.
“These companies are looking all over – not just in New York State,” she said
But sometimes Orleans County emerges as the top site. Many companies based in Canada look to Orleans as a spot to set up operations in the United States. That is the case with Pride Pak, which will soon open a new vegetable and fruit processing site on Maple Ridge Road in Medina.
There have been many big projects around the county, including a new controlled atmosphere storage building by H.H. Dobbins in Lyndonville, an expansion and new CA storage in Gaines by Lake Ontario Fruit, several expansions by Intergrow Greeenhouses in Gaines, the Cottages at Troutburg at the former Salvation Army camp in Kendall, Precision Packaging Products and Magc Inc. in Holley.
In Albion, the EDA worked to bring CRFS in the vacated former Chase building, preserving several hundred jobs. A former warehouse on McKinstry Street was also renovated and is now home to Bomet, an electronic recycling company. The EDA also worked with the Town of Albion to establish the Albion Business Park at Butts Road and Route 31, which is home to an urgent care site run by Orleans Community Health.
There are numerus other projects that Barone and the EDA have had a hand in, from Freeze-Dry Foods in Albion, the addition at Tillman’s Village Inn in Gaines, to projects at Associated Brands, Hinspergers Poly Industries and the Ace Hardware at the former Jubilee in Medina.
The EDA also runs a small business training program that makes low-interest loans available to graduates of the program. Barone and the EDA have offered advice for the entrepreneurs in getting the businesses off to a good start.
Barone has been active in the community in other ways, including leadership in the former League of Women Voters chapter in Orleans County. She serves on the Job Corps Advisory Council, represented Orleans on the GLOW Workforce Investment Board and is currently on the Orleans County Comprehensive Plan Committee.
The comprehensive plan will help guide development and land use in the county for many years to come.
Barone sees opportunities for growth, improved job prospects and a better quality of life in the county. But she said all levels of local government need to be working to improve the communities, including plans for upgrading the local housing stock and “curb appeal” of the villages and hamlets. That includes aesthetics, signage, even logos for the communities.
The comprehensive plan should identify strengths in Orleans and areas that need improvement.
Barone can look across the Orleans County landscape and see a more diversified, and stronger local economy in the past 15 years.
Barone left a career with the Modern Corp. in Niagara County to return to work in her home community.
“I wanted to see if we could make a difference in the type of businesses we draw here, once we understood what we had to offer,” Barone said.