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Beech-Nut Cleanup Gets $6 Million Boost

Lucas Willard

The project to remediate a former baby food factory in New York’s Mohawk Valley has received a major boost in state funding. 

The former Beech-Nut factory in Canajoharie is hard to miss. But the dream that some local officials have to see the 1 million-square-foot eyesore cleaned up, is moving closer to reality.

In the fall of 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Montgomery County the go-ahead to address debris piles contaminated with asbestos on a partially demolished portion of the facility.

In November, local residents came together to offer ideas to a consulting firm on what to do with the property once it is ready for re-use.

Ginny Ogden is a reverend at a local church and a member of a community action group which formed a couple of years ago to plan next steps for the factory property.

“Diversity, we definitely wanted something where there was a banquet hall, with a commercial kitchen where we could have weddings, where we could have community gatherings. A multi-purpose room,” said Ogden.

The demolition and remediation process which began last fall has now received a shot-in-the-arm through a $6 million grant from the state-funded Restore New York Communities Initiative.

Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery says he is elated over the announcement.

“We’ve had the impression for a long time that this has been going on so slowly that we’ve really been forgotten. This proves that everyone was sincere, that things will be moving forward, and we are just elated over the whole announcement,” said Avery.

Beech-Nut moved from its Canajoharie plant to a site in the nearby Town of Florida in 2011. New owners came in and failed to pay taxes on the property, which is now empty and rapidly falling into disrepair. Last year, Montgomery County was able to foreclose on the 22-acre property.

County Executive Matt Ossenfort believes the $6 million it’s the largest grant the county has received.

“I haven’t been able to find an award that’s been bigger than this. Certainly it’s a big problem and therefore a big award, but I’m just really proud of the team. For little Montgomery County, a small rural county in Upstate New York to do a total of about $10.8 million in economic development grants this year, we’re proud of the work we’re doing. And you’re seeing Montgomery County turn around and you’re seeing good projects get off the ground,” said Ossenfort.

Restore New York provided $81 million to projects across the state in 71 communities in its most recent round of funding.

Work is currently focused on the partially demolished east side of the property that includes warehouse space, according to Mayor Avery.

“Once we do our cleanup, we want to redevelop the east side first, next to the Thruway. Then the next steps are going to be decisions on what has to be done with what we refer to as the west side: the office space and the plant itself,” said Avery.

Meanwhile, officials plan to continue putting together a master plan for the project. Again, Matt Ossenfort.

“Getting through the demolition is great, but I’ve said it before. We have the chance to reimagine a downtown in one of the most charming little villages in Upstate New York. And that is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often so we want to make sure we do this right and do something that’s going to carry the Village of Canajoharie for many years to come and be a boost for the region as well,” said Ossenfort.

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