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Could Cuba lose its cheese company? Great Lakes Cheese plans $505M Allegany County plant

Cuba officials voice opposition to moving cheese manufacturing plant out of its historic home and into a new facility in Amity
By Chris Potter
The Wellsville Daily Reporter

Cuba Cheese may not be churned out in Cuba for too much longer. Great Lakes Cheese, the Cuba Cheese parent company, is eyeing a major expansion of its footprint in Allegany County, growth that will take the manufacturing plant out of its historic home in the town of Cuba.

Great Lakes Cheese has proposed a $505 million project to construct a 486,000-square-foot cheese manufacturing facility and an accompanying 50,000-square-foot wastewater treatment facility on Triana and Old State Road in the town of Amity, and County Road 20 in the town of Angelica. The plant would sit just off I-86, near the new Quicklees travel station.

The Great Lakes Cheese manufacturing facility on Haskell Road in Cuba produces mozzarella and provolone and is home to award winning string cheese as well, according to the company website. As part of the new facility, Great Lakes Cheese is proposing to add up to 200 full-time employees while retaining the 229 currently employed in Cuba. The new plant would bring packaging and cheese production under one roof in the company’s fifth “megasite,” said Allegany County Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Craig Clark.

The IDA has been working with Great Lakes Cheese on finding a new location for the plant over the last 18 months. Clark said the company has outgrown its home in Cuba. Great Lakes Cheese is headquartered in Hiram, Ohio and operates two New York plants in Cuba and Adams. The company is privately owned by its founders, the Epprecht family.

“They really wanted to make the decision last year, but they went the full extra mile to try to work on a couple different sites in Cuba. They just didn’t work out,” Clark said. “The family even visited Cuba a couple times to look at sites in the Cuba area. They really wanted to stay in Cuba if they could. Their real commitment is to keep the 229 people employed at that factory, and that’s why they really wanted to stay as close as possible to Cuba.”

The new facility would increase production, which would have a ripple effect on dairy farms in the county and the wider region. In addition to directly adding 200 jobs at the manufacturing facility, Clark said the expansion would retain 600 farm jobs and possibly add up to 100 more due to greater demand at the plant.

The IDA is considering economic assistance for the $505 million project, which would include sales tax exemptions up to $21 million, a mortgage tax exemption up to $9 million and a real property tax exemption of nearly $171,000,000 over the total term of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement. Negotiations are ongoing as the IDA considers a 20-year PILOT, with payments beginning in the 16th year and phasing up to 100%.

While the project retains current jobs and promises to add several hundred more, Cuba officials objected to moving the operation out of the town during a well-attended public hearing on the economic assistance Tuesday. Cuba native Jenny Bilotta summed up the comments of many, lamenting the loss of a community staple while questioning the long-term impact to town taxpayers.

“It’s devastating to hear that Great Lakes Cheese is moving out of the Cuba community,” Bilotta said. “I think we’ve been hit by a lot over the years. We have a lot of vacant buildings and it’s really sad to see yet another one going vacant. We already have the old Acme (Electronics) building, we already have the (Tracewell) building.

“With an assessed value of over $4.4 million in the town of Cuba, that’s going to have a huge impact on every single taxpayer in the town of Cuba. Eventually that assessed value will decrease. … $188,000 in taxes is put into the county, the town and the school for Cuba. I hate to see what’s going to happen to the taxpayers once this building is vacated.”

If the project moves forward, the Cuba plant on Haskell Road will likely remain in operation for the next five years as the new facility is constructed. Clark said no determination has been made on the fate of the current plant, only that Great Lakes Cheese would be open to any reuse that doesn’t include cheese production.

Cuba-Rushford Central School District superintendent Carlos Gildemeister suggested any agreement should make clear that Great Lakes Cheese would be responsible for a teardown of the current plant in the future, if it is not repurposed. The IDA acknowledged the town of Cuba will take a hit to its tax base, an objection raised by Cuba town supervisor Lee James, although the towns of Amity and Angelica will receive a boost when the land is reclassified from its current agriculture designation.

Several commenters, including Birdsall town supervisor Cindy Gowiski, questioned the financial support offered by the IDA. Clark countered that the level of assistance and benefits are lower than what other states could offer.

“You’re seeing companies move out of New York state, so we have to be as competitive as we can,” Clark said. “It’s very unusual to find a company that’s going to invest that kind of money in a rural community. Obviously they want to save the 229 jobs, but if we aren’t competitive on some of the benefits, they will not stay. This is a business decision. Longterm it’s going to benefit the community having those 449 jobs and keeping those local farm jobs as well.”

The first cheese company was formed in Cuba in 1871 and in the late 19th century, Cuba was known as the "Cheese Center of the World." The proposed development covers 210 acres in Amity and Angelica currently designated for agricultural use. The IDA may invoke eminent domain to acquire the property if a deal cannot be struck with the landowner. That process has been initiated, but IDA attorney Dan Spitzer said both the IDA and Great Lakes prefer to reach an agreement. The IDA would be required by law to pay full market value for any land acquired through eminent domain.

“Its preference is not to go through eminent domain, but the IDA is committed to keeping 229 jobs in Allegany County if it can do so,” Spitzer said. “Just as the IDA spent considerable funds to try to find an alternative site in the town of Cuba, so will it exercise the legal responsibility it has to do what’s best to keep these jobs in Allegany County. This is one mechanism. By law we will pay no less than full market value.”

Charlie Bares, the majority owner of the land, was among the residents to question the tax breaks from the IDA. Bares is the owner of Mallards Dairy. Spitzer said Great Lakes has around $9-12 million in payroll in the county, a number that would nearly double with the addition of another 200 positions. He also said the state estimates every manufacturing job supports another 2.5 jobs, working as a job multiplier in the county and the region.

“Keeping this plant in New York state is a priority for the Department of Agriculture, the governor and the county,” Spitzer said. “It was our preference to keep it in the (Cuba) community. The company eventually makes the decision. Compared to a loss of the plant from the state and the region, the tax benefits (from the IDA) are significantly less than the benefits of the jobs saved and the income to the community from the plant.”

Bilotta stated that Great Lakes cheese currently owns more than 380 acres in the town of Cuba, but Clark said “very little of that is flat land that’s developable.” In searching for a new site, the company was looking for room to grow. Most of the places it considered featured 140 acres.

“To begin with they’re going to develop a good 50 acres and they’re looking for future expansion,” Clark said. “They do not want to be in the same position they are in Cuba right now where they couldn’t expand on the site they’re on. That’s the reason they’re looking for a fairly large site.”

Spitzer said a SEQR on the property will not come before the IDA until March at the earliest. In the meantime, a separate public hearing on the potential eminent domain related to the project will be held Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. The public hearing will be held via teleconference. Residents can call in at 1-888-850-7158 and enter passcode 299146.

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Walter D. “Pete” Mairs, 81, died peacefully on July 23, 2021. Born in Avon, N.Y., on Sept. 3, 1939, Pete was a longtime resident of Geneva, N.Y., and these past many years in Buffalo, N.Y., as well as his beloved Silver Lake. Pete is survived by his wife, Linda Bergstrom Mairs, a loving and true companion; children, Mimi C. Mairs, Jonathan B. Mairs; sisters, June Huff, Helen Dole; brother, Thomas Mairs; stepchildren, Daniel Brinkworth, Jennie Ramsey; sister-in-law, Anne Bergstrom, eight beautiful grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. A service and celebration of life is planned for the fall when all can share the joy of Pete’s life together. Arrangements by Stephenson – Dougherty Funeral Home, Avon, N.Y.

Editor's Note: It was a privilege knowing and working with Pete Mairs during his presidency of the Silver Lake Institute. He was a kind and gentle man, but also firm in his leadership. I served as Treasurer and Chaplain of SLI during those years and I could always depend on Pete's presence in the worship service. He was a man of faith and a gem of a human being. May he rest in God's care.


Gerald C. Sahrle, 80, of Perry, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. He was born on Oct. 10, 1941, in Wayland, N.Y., to the late Charles A. and Helen I. (Blowers) Sahrle. Gerry was a line foreman for 32 1/2 years for NYSE&G, working out of the Perry and Hamburg locations, and was a Town of Perry Councilman. He was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Constellation Lodge -404 in Perry. He was an avid fisherman, hunter and woodworker. He is survived by his wife, Valary A. (Conley) Sahrle; 1 son, Gerald (Pamela) Sahrle II of Silver Springs; 2 sisters, Millie Edmond of Greece, Bonnie Fink of Winston-Salem, N.C., 3 brothers, Ronald (Linda) Sahrle of Dansville, Robert (Susan) Sahrle of Springwater, Kenneth Sahrle of Dansville; 5 grandchildren, Bradley Musscarella, Stone and Winston Sahrle, Conley and Cooper Gayton; along with many nieces, nephews and friends. Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a brother, Thomas Sahrle, who passed away in 2012. Services will be held at the convenience of the family. Gerry will be laid to rest in West Perry Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Perry Center Fire Department, P.O. Box 204, Perry, NY 14530. For more information, please call (585) 237-2626 or to leave a message of condolence, visit Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 North Main Street, Perry, NY 14530.

Editor's Note: Gerald and Valarie could always be seen in the family pew with Pamela, Stone and Winston at Perry First United Methodist Church and continue to be loved. Gerry will be sorely missed. Both were supporters of the Arts at the Silver Lake Institute and Valarie was active in painting and participating in the Annual Show in August. Valarie's presence was always valued and appreciated.


"Kathy P." passed November 8, 2021, of Hamburg and Boston, NY. Beloved daughter of Joseph and Barbara Michalak; loving sister of Daniel Michalak; devoted wife of the late Jeffrey Praczkajlo; cherished mother of Jennifer (Shawn) Jump; loving babcia of Lily Jump; also survived by many beloved family members and friends who became her family. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Editor's Note: "Kathy P." as she was better known to us at Silver Lake was an annual summer visitor for most of the last number of years at the invitation of Silver Laker Julia Hoffner. She stayed at the Hoffner Cottage, and became known as both the fun visitor with the vivacious smile to the neighbors at the intersection of Haven Ave. and the Ames Walkway. Kathy P. and Julie could be seen walking and talking between the cottage and the Hoffner boathouse where they could be close to the water. She was also occasionally seen at the Saturday morning breakfasts at Stoody Hall. Her stay was anywhere between 4 days and a week where she had the opportunity to develop a love for Silver Lake. She was not yet eligible for retirement when late last week she developed "a cold" and had to remain home from her job. She did not update her condition over the weekend so the local police made a wellness visit and found her deceased on Monday. She was one of those many people who found Silver Lake and friendship for brief respites where she also found new strength and energy to return to work. She is being particularly mourned by those in the Haven/Ames neighborhood. She will be memorialized next summer at the annual Celebration of Life Memorial Service at Epworth Hall.


Brenda Joan Paddock, 82, of Perry, born April 15, 1939, now resides in heaven with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Brenda met Jesus as her Savior in 1965. She met him in person on Nov. 14, 2021. She had a beautiful homecoming with music, singing and praying, leading her into Glory. Her last words were “I am well, I am well.”

Brenda’s greatest loves were her family and friends. Brenda had five children with her husband Roger: Don and Daelene Paddock of Florida, Jody and Tim Von Sanden of Pavilion, Bradley and Jeanie Paddock of Warsaw, Jennifer and Paul Guy of Massachusetts, and Nathan and Jill Paddock of Perry.

Brenda dearly loved her grandchildren: Jessica Morillo, Nikki and Clint O’Brien, Luke Paddock, Paul Paddock, Ian and Brooklyn Paddock, Joe and Louana Paddock, Burke and Megan Paddock, Aaron Paddock, Ellen Paddock, Andrew Paddock, Rachael Paddock, Abigail Paddock, Erik and Cassandra Von Sanden, Jacquelyn and Michael Jones, Tim Von Sanden, Brandon and Brandee Paddock, Jamey and Laura Paddock, Peter and Kara Guy, Candy and Jay Waitkevich, Marlo and Ryan Bolger and Jenna and Rory Peterson.

Brenda was blessed and loved her great grandchildren: Chloe, Olivia and Nicholas Von Sanden, Joshua and Jaxon Morillo, Jameson and Cassandra O’Brien, Atlas Paddock, Noah and Ezra Jones, Colton, Brantley and Charlotte Guy, Cameron Waitkevich, Amelia Bolger and Brennen Leonard.

Brenda is also survived by her brother and sister in laws; Frank and Emma Paddock, Viva and Jim Phillips-Richardson and Kurt and Lynn Paddock.

Brenda first started working as a secretary at Perry Central School. She then assisted her husband building Paddock’s Breeding Service. Roger and Brenda together built and ran the Sandsabarn teenage nightclub. Brenda was owner and operator of Serendipity Travel. Brenda’s pleasures included playing organ and piano. She played at a number of area churches along with performing for her loved ones. UPDATED -- Brenda also played with conviction at both indoor and outdoor services at the Silver Lake Institute where her grandson, Luke, sang at Epworth Hall on several occasions and was appreciated by all who heard his inspiring voice.

Brenda was preceded in death by her parents Noble and Freda Buckland, her husband Roger and son Bradley.

A Committal service at West Perry Cemetery will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, November 17 at 11 a.m., followed by a Celebration of Life at LaGrange Baptist Church at 4 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made in Brenda’s honor to the LaGrange Baptist Church 7092 LaGrange Rd. Perry, NY 14530 or to the First Congregational Church P.O. Box 156 Perry, NY 14530. Arrangements completed by Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC. 98 N. Main St., Perry, N.Y. 14530. For more information or to sign the online guest registry please visit

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