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Hydropower approved for company eyeing Medina site

Staff Reports Posted 8 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Sen. Ortt also introduces legislation to extend hydropower to hospitals, housing authorities

MEDINA – More incentives are being offered to a Canadian company, trying to make Medina the best option for a new vegetable processing, packaging and distribution facility.

Pride Pak Canada Ltd. has been offered 1 megawatt of hydropower, deeply discounted electricity from the New York Power Authority.

Pride Pak is considering acquiring and renovating the former BernzOmatic plant in Medina, a site vacated last year by Worthington Cylinders. Pride Pak’s investment in Orleans County and the property would be $18 million and would create 163 new jobs, according to the New York Power Authority.

“These low-cost hydropower allocations from the Niagara Power Project demonstrate the Power Authority’s commitment to invest in the people and businesses of New York State,” said John R. Koelmel, NYPA chairman.

Low-cost Niagara hydropower is currently priced more than 40 percent less than wholesale market electricity in the Buffalo-Niagara region and is linked to tens of thousands of existing jobs, NYPA officials said.

Pride Pak, based in Mississauga, Ontario, is currently Canada’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable processor.

The power allocation follows a move by the Orleans Economic Development Agency last month that would save Pride Pak $1 million in property taxes over 20 years at the site, plus $280,000 in sales tax for materials and equipment in the renovation and expansion.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, praised the news from NYPA.

“As a small-business owner, I know the resources that are necessary to flourish in New York’s economy,” Hawley said. “I am excited to see public-sector entities actively supporting private-sector businesses in my district. For the private-sector businesses to thrive, we need initiatives such as these that will create jobs and grow Western New York’s economy.”

State Sen. Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, also said the NYPA decision is good for Medina and the regional agricultural economy.

“This proposed project is a great example of how low-cost hydropower can be used to help grow our local economy while meeting the demand for locally grown food,” Ortt said. “Working with our partners across the border to deliver fresh, healthy food from a home base in Medina is a start to strengthening our region’s and state’s leading industry, in hopes of one day, distributing these local products around the world.”

Ortt also announced on Tuesday an effort to make the hydropower available to hospitals and housing authorities in Niagara and Orleans counties.

Ortt has introduced a bill (S4414-A) that would make low-cost hydropower easily available to hospitals and municipal housing authorities located in the two counties.
These types of institutions in the two counties would not be required to go through the eligibility process that’s currently in place for allotments of power through the Niagara Power Project, Ortt said.

“Niagara Falls is a powerful resource in our very own backyard, and certain facilities should be able to take advantage of its ability to produce cost-effective electricity provided by the Niagara Power Project,” Ortt said. “Making hydroelectricity easily accessible to housing authorities and hospitals in Niagara and Orleans counties will help those in need while spurring economic development.”

The idea to implement this bill came after Senator Ortt realized how many entities, including the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, are not currently eligible to take advantage of low-cost hydropower.

A hydropower allocation would reduce the operating costs at Medina Memorial Hospital, said Wendy Jacobson, interim chief executive officer for Orleans Community Health, the hospital’s parent organization.

“Cost containment is essential to smaller hospitals,” she said. “Reducing operating expenses through lower cost hydropower will help us to continue serving health care needs in our community. Along with physician alignment and affiliation with larger institutions to share resources, cost containment measures such as lower cost hydropower will assist Medina Memorial Hospital in achieving a healthy future.”

Eligible facilities that do not fall under the category of a housing authority or hospital would still need to apply for low-cost hydropower as long as they are within a 30-mile radius of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, Ortt said.