Brewery deal might not be dead after all


By Jim Poole

So doubtful a week ago, the deal to have the long-vacant Guilford Mills plant become a brewery now appears to be in better shape.
Officials have been meeting with Butternuts Beer and Ale representatives almost daily, keeping alive the project that would bring more than 60 jobs to the county.
The county Board of Supervisors last month refused to hold a second mortgage for Butternuts, putting a dent in negotiations.
But county Planning Director Alicia Terry and Cobleskill Supervisor Tom Murray met with John Lorence, with the real estate firm representing the brewery, late Monday afternoon.
"Our meetings continue to be positive," Ms. Terry said. "They want to make their next business investment in the Cobleskill area."
Monday's meeting came after a series of online and phone conversations since the Board of Supervisors' action.
"They reaffirmed their commitment to the Cobleskill area," Ms. Terry said Monday night.
One key to the talks is Butternuts' continued negotiations with Wal-Mart, which wants to use part of the Guilford plant as a distribution center for six months.
"There will be another flurry of activity on one more point with Wal-Mart," Ms. Terry said. "Those have been very positive negotiations."
The sale of the Guilford plant for $2.5 million is not a sure thing, however. Butternuts is also looking at a site in Oneonta and another in Montgomery County.
That worries Mr. Murray. His concern is that without Schoharie County holding the second mortgage, Butternuts will be drawn to those other sites.
"Normally I have a gut feeling about a deal like this," Mr. Murray said. "Not this time."
The deal in Cobleskill still must be put together. Butternuts is trying to secure $1.2 million from Key Bank that would be used for upgrades for Wal-Mart's portion of the factory.
And then, more funding would be necessary.
"They still have a menu of options on how to put a project like this together," Mr. Terry said. "There are ongoing and momentary developments."
She maintained that the Cobleskill factory is still "at the top of the list" for Butternuts.
Ms. Terry pointed to Mr. Murray and Mayor Mark Galasso working together on the sale, local planning board approvals, annexation of the property and other local cooperation as factors in keeping Cobleskill in the loop.
"If they're not meeting with Tom, they're meeting with the Mayor of Cobleskill," Ms. Terry said. "They want to be here."
One element that encourages financing is jobs. The brewery would bring 60-62 jobs in its first phase. Wal-Mart would have 40-60 jobs for five months, Ms. Terry said.
Other companies will be interested "once the lights are on and there's activity," she added.
Emphasizing that Cobleskill remains in Butternuts' first position, Ms. Terry said the deal remains competitive with other sites.
"The secret is being the last to drop out," she said.