A $10 million food processing facility is just one of about a dozen projects in the Riverhead area that will receive state grants as part of New York’s annual round of economic development funding.
North Harbor Trading Corporation, which is still in its infancy and was first announced publicly last week when the grants were awarded, received more funding than any other private project in Suffolk County. The $1.25 million grant will help “establish a high-pressure processing facility in Riverhead to enhance the shelf life of Long Island agriculture and food products,” according to the state.
Other awards included over $2 million for three separate wastewater treatment projects that will provide sewers for a 100-room hotel, Tanger I and five mobile home parks, taking them off dated cesspools that currently leech nitrogen into the aquifer. Another project will create a barrier that will treat nitrogen near the mouth of the Peconic River in Flanders.
Several other local projects also received parts of more than $5 million in funding designated for the area.
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The money trickles down through the Regional Economic Development Council program, created in 2011 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a way for regions across New York to compete for state funding. Instead of individual grant applications being made to the Department of Transportation or the Department of Environmental Conservation, for example, a single application is made to the region. The region then identifies the projects that work toward regional goals and forwards those applications to the state. The best applications are then granted the largest chunks of state dollars.
“This way, we’re allowed to develop a strategic plan that highlights our assets and include heritage industries like the agriculture and fisheries of the East End,” said Kevin Law, CEO of the Long Island Association and co-chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
North Harbor Trading Corporation principal Tom Kehoe said his company is still exploring exactly where its facility will be located. The $1.25 million grant provides the added flexibility to bring in potential investors. However, Mr, Kehoe has been talking with the town about possibly locating at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. He’s also exploring a possible partnership with the Stony Brook University Incubator.
EPCAL, which is currently being rezoned by the town to attract businesses, could be a suitable location, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. The town was granted the land — formerly the Northrop Grumman grounds — in the late 1990s. While 500 acres were sold in the early 2000s, another 2,400 acres remain undeveloped. The town hopes to develop about 600 acres and preserve the rest.
“If EPCAL really starts to rock and roll, that would be a good location for them,” Mr. Walter said.
North Harbor Trading Corp. would use a technology called high-pressure processing, Mr. Kehoe said. The process applies extreme amounts of pressure to products, extending their shelf life by killing microbacteria that are typically killed through pasteurization, which involves heating products to a specific temperature. Proponents of HPP say the method keeps the taste of the product closer to its natural state — and maintains its nutritional value without adding any chemicals.
The closest HPP facility is in Hartford, Conn., Mr. Kehoe said, leaving an untapped place in the market for the facility on Long Island — particularly in an area that has access to the fields and docks of the entire East End.
“There’s a lot of synergy with the agriculture industry, the wine industry and the seafood industry out there, which is what we want to do,” he said. “We’re hoping we can draw some of those companies in and offer another extension to whatever product they are currently taking to market and give them an additional way to process their product.”
Mr. Kehoe, a Northport resident, currently runs an international seafood company — K&B Seafood — as well as a logistics company that operates the shipping to international markets. He also helps get products to market overseas, he said.
The project received the support of the Long Island Farm Bureau, a nonprofit that lobbies on behalf of farmers. Its director, Rob Carpenter, said HPP “will have some functionality for some different agricultural products … It won’t necessarily work for all the crops on Long Island, but it will help us in certain areas such as fresh juices made from agricultural products.”
In addition to juices, Mr. Kehoe said a high-pressure processor would benefit the area’s cider industry, shellfish industry and salads, for example. Products with normal shelf lives of a week or two could last for three to five months, he said.
The North Harbor Trading facility would create 40 to 50 jobs by its third year, according to Mr. Kehoe.
CLICK TO SEE WHAT OTHER PROJECTS IN THE AREA RECEIVED STATE FUNDING