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"BioEnergy" firm opens new facility at old Seneca Army Depot

Matt Richmond
Seneca BioEnergy CEO Michael Coia demonstrates the first step of grape waste processing at his company's new facility at the Seneca Army Depot.

When the Seneca Army Depot closed down in 2000, more than a thousand jobs were lost. The 10,000-acre site was left to a rare herd of white deer and the sad life of an EPA-designated Superfund site.

But now local officials are trying something new: They've been touting the open land, existing buildings and access to highways and railroad tracks as a great place for companies to set up shop.

One of the few firms to take up that offer is Seneca BioEnergy. On Friday they unveiled their new plant.

A new tenant

Seneca BioEnergy makes grape seed oil and plans to produce biodiesel from grape waste within a couple of months.

As of Friday the operations were pretty threadbare - a huge, chilly warehouse, a trailer full of grape waste, a conveyor belt and a machine used to separate grape seeds from skins and stems. But the company's willingness to start operations at the army depot has won it the support of local officials and NYSEG, the Binghamton-based power company.

"For the past eight years, the Town of Romulus has worked hard to assist in bringing new businesses like this to the former depot," said town supervisor David Kaiser.

Attracting business

Empire State Development has committed $2.5 million in Restore NY funding for fixing up the depot, which is owned by the local industrial development agency.

Restore NY funds are designated for revamping old buildings in the state. Seneca BioEnergy is setting up shop in 400,000 square feet of rehabbed warehouse space at the army depot.

NYSEG has already increased the power supply to the depot and handed over a $116,000 check to Seneca BioEnergy CEO Michael Coia during Friday's ceremony.

"Usually the process is much more difficult, with many calls back and forth," Coia joked while receiving the check from a NYSEG official.

Coia added that the biofuels part of his business won't start until a private loan is secured. A biofuel producer in New York state can get up to $2.5 million a year in tax credits if they produce and market enough fuel.

WSKG/Southern Tier reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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