BATAVIA – Federal funding for the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has come under criticism by a U.S. senator who argues that it was a classic example of wasteful spending.
That critique is not sitting well with one of New York’s senators and by another official.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped secure a $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, denied the “Wastebook 2012” designation from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who said some of the money went to PepsiCo Corp. and called the funding “corporate welfare.”
Schumer said the three grants, including two from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, went to the Genesee Economic Development Center, the business park’s sponsor, Genesee County and the Town of Batavia.
None of the recipients of $1.3 million is PepsiCo, Schumer said. Rather, the money goes for permanent infrastructure, “smart funding that will remain with the park for years to come,” Schumer added. He noted that the grants are subject to competitive bidding.
Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the development center, also defended the federal assistance, which will cover a new access road, upgrading a pump station and constructing an aquifer-supply system to meet the demands of yogurt-making tenants.
Two of the occupants of the park are Greek-style yogurt makers Alpina Foods and a partnership of PepsiCo and Muller’s Germany-based dairies. Their combined investment is $226 million and they will employ about 230 people. The operations also are a boon to area dairy farmers because of the large quantities of milk needed for yogurt. Alpina’s plant is open and Muller Quaker will begin its manufacture next summer.
In his rebuttal Schumer listed several instances in Coburn’s “Wastebook” designations that are inaccurate. He was critical of an “out-of-state senator” for characterizing a “federal role in investing in public infrastructure that bolsters economic growth in local communities and puts more Americans back to work.”