$2m back on track for work at plant (Watertown Daily Times)

GREAT LAKES CHEESE: Aubertine recaptures grant promised in '07

ADAMS — State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine has recaptured a $2 million commitment to Great Lakes Cheese that was promised two years ago but subsequently lost in the exchange of power in Albany.

The state funds originally were procured for the company, which is in the midst of an $86 million expansion, in July 2007 by then-Sen. James W. Wright, Mr. Aubertine's Republican predecessor. The legislative grant was funded by the Senate majority, which then was controlled by the Republican party.

Mr. Wright resigned his seat the following January, and his party lost the Senate majority in last November's election.

When Great Lakes Cheese still hadn't seen the money, it sent a letter April 25 to Mr. Aubertine to find out what went wrong.

"It was complicated in that we had to identify the funds, go back and essentially start over again," said Mr. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent. "But once we were contacted by Great Lakes Cheese of their concern about the $2 million, we turned all our efforts to getting this money turned around as quickly as we could."

The senator said his staff researched the issue with colleagues in the office of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith.

Ten days after Great Lakes requested Mr. Aubertine's aid, the Senate majority asked the state Dormitory Authority to release the cash it had been holding for the plant.

"We're very, very pleased," said Mr. Aubertine. "Great Lakes is a major player in the milk processing business. The fact that we're able to help them remain strong — that helps the dairy industry, which, at this point in time, is hurting."

The company is building a 142,000-square-foot cheese and whey production plant adjacent to its current facility, which will allow it to increase cheese-producing capabilities from 1.2 million pounds of milk daily to 2.5 million pounds per day.

"This expansion project was made possible because of all the different agencies on the state, county and local levels," said plant manager John H. Jennings in a statement. "We are certainly thankful for all the effort that has been put in by these agencies and the senator. This project secures a long-term market for the agriculture community and it mushrooms out beyond the 90 to 95 jobs at this plant into the surrounding areas."

The plant supports 548 farm jobs locally, Mr. Jennings said. The expansion, when complete this fall, will allow the company to support about 1,000 farm jobs locally.