Brewer out of time to buy former Cobleskill mill
County to put Guilford site back on market
SCHOHARIE COUNTY Schoharie County supervisors scuttled a proposal to turn the former Guilford Mills factory complex into a brewery Friday and agreed to renew marketing efforts for the sprawling Cobleskill site.
A representative from Otsego County-based Butternuts Beer & Ale pleaded with the County Board of Supervisors to extend the brewer’s option to purchase the vacant 460,000-square-foot facility, but to no avail.
It is the second collapse of a proposal to redevelop the former textile mill, where as many as 500 people worked before it shut down in 2001.
Impatient with a sluggish process to turn the place into a fish farm, the county in August 2011 rejected a request for more time by principals of Intelligent Fish, who had sought to build a fish farm and employ 30 people raising fish for restaurants.
The county put the buildings and roughly 40 acres back on the market with a $3.5 million asking price. The Garrattsville-based brewer offered $2.5 million, though job creation incentives could have cut the price to as little as $1 million.
Jon Lorence, a principal at Butternuts Beer & Ale and Long House Holdings, a sister company formed to pursue the Guilford Mills project, expressed disappointment Friday.
He said the county board appeared to misunderstand the project, which goes beyond a company seeking to buy a building.
Numerous agencies took part in planning the initiative and getting available funding in line to redevelop the long-vacant site, which has more space than Butternuts needs, Lorence said.
“We got together as a partnership in this building,” he said, adding the effort was supposed to be one in which the county and the company worked as a team.
“I feel they’ve turned their back on that approach,” Lorence said.
He said the company can’t keep its products on the shelf and visited more than a dozen sites in a 100-mile radius looking to expand in the burgeoning craft beer market.
“We continue to not be able to meet all our orders,” Lorence said.
The project was among highlights of the state’s economic development plans, garnering $750,000 in support from Empire State Development.
It also had a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement in place with the Schoharie County Industrial Development Agency offering a break on property taxes over a 10-year period.
Cobleskill Supervisor Thomas Murray urged the board to reconsider, calling for an extension of the deal with Butternuts to January.
“We’ve all been working very hard on this. We want this to happen,” he said.
The project was supposed to create as many as 30 jobs, and under the now-expired agreement with the county, the company would have cut $15,000 off the $2.5 million selling price for each new job beyond the first 10 positions, with a threshold of 110 jobs, or a maximum $1.5 million discount.
The county board on Friday voted to place responsibility for selling the building on the desk of Treasurer William Cherry, who said he’s optimistic he can succeed.
Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone, who proposed starting a renewed effort to sell the facility, said Friday’s action doesn’t put Butternuts Beer & Ale out of contention.
“If they have the necessary funding, no one is going to turn them away,” he said.
Like the fish farm proposal before it, the beer brewery’s success hinged on getting sufficient financial backing, and that never happened.
Guilford Mills needs more than $1 million in repairs. For starters, it’s got no electrical wiring and the roof is leaking.
Some supervisors said they feared Butternuts Beer & Ale could take legal action over cancellation of the purchase deal, but County Attorney Mike West said the county met its obligations.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that what we did was entirely proper,” he said.