OSWEGO — The Port of Oswego is slated to receive $15 million in state funds to construct a state-of-the-art agricultural export center that would significantly increase the shipping hub’s capacity for grain and provide local farmers with better access to global markets.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the $15 million in state funding Monday afternoon, part of the state’s $65 million commitment to modernizing and enhancing upstate ports. The Port of Oswego plans to use the funding to construct what is being dubbed the Central New York Agriculture Export Center, which would include building a new storage dome, silo, tunnel and belt conveyor system and a sampling laboratory for agricultural products that meets the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.
Port Authority Executive Director William Scriber said the $15 million project would cover roughly 85 percent of the costs to create “a state-of-the-art storage facility” with a capacity of more than 15,000 metric tons. Scriber said the export center would be “the largest agricultural development project” in central New York and comply with all USDA export regulations.
Scriber said the investment is “crucial to the growing agricultural business, not only at the Port but all of central New York,” and the port is looking forward to the positive economic impact.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “The governor is giving central New York and New York farmers another avenue to ship their grain. It gives the local farmer another option to be able to deliver his grain to market.”
The Port of Oswego Authority handles more than one million tons of imports and exports annually, and one of the fastest growing commodities exported from central New York around the world is agricultural products, such as corn and soybeans. State and local officials say the export center would make the region more competitive globally by providing regional farmers to global markets at a lower cost than trucking commodities to other seaports.
"The Port of Oswego is a key economic generator for the entire Central New York Region," Cuomo said in a Monday press release. "This investment will help the Port renew and modernize its agricultural handling facilities, providing the region with enhanced access to international markets and boosting local economies."
Oswego Mayor William Barlow noted it was exciting to see Gov. Cuomo and the state place a focus on, and make a sizeable investment in, the Port.
“The Port of Oswego is a major economic driver to the Oswego community and this investment will ensure continued growth and expansion in the future."
Oswego County Legislature Chair James Weatherup, R-Central Square, shared Barlow’s sentiment, saying the Port has been a valuable shipping hub for centuries and “remains a vital part” of the community.
With the equipment upgrades, Scriber said ships would spend less time at the port and in turn the port would be able to handle more ships. In addition to increasing capacity and efficiency, Scriber said a modernized storage facility would allow the port to effectively store grain for longer periods of time.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who has supported the port in the past by helping secure a USDA grain export license and a waiver to allow local soybean farmers to export their product out of the Port of Oswego, lauded the announcement Monday.
“For years, the Port of Oswego’s inability to export grain was a lost opportunity for Upstate New York’s farmers,” the Democratic senator said. “Despite a record number of exports from Oswego last year, the port was forced to repeatedly seek a waiver from USDA because it lacked certain equipment, which consistently put shipments at risk. This investment will ensure that waiver is no longer necessary, meaning the Port of Oswego and New York farmers will not have to cut through bureaucratic red tape each time they seek to access much-needed export markets.”
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Huevelton, thanked Cuomo and said the Port is key to the success of the central New York economy, noting the export center would provide famers with better and less expensive access to global markets.
Assemblyman William Barclay, R-Pulaski, said the $15 million allocation toward the export center would “massively benefit our region’s agriculture industry.” Barclay noted the local economy relies heavily on farming, and the funding would allow the region’s agricultural industry to expand and provide new jobs.
Scriber said his goal is to get the export center “up and running as soon as possible,” and officials are aiming to have the work completed by September 2020 ahead of the harvest season and prior to the port’s 65th anniversary of being a Port Authority.
“This will be a seamless, quick construction that will go into effect now,” Scriber said, noting the port has already completed much of the permitting and preliminary design work necessary to move forward with construction. “A lot of the construction is going to happen really quickly.”
The $15 million award is in addition to more than $2.3 million the Port of Oswego Authority was recently awarded as part of the state Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) to repair damage from Lake Ontario flooding in 2017 and 2019 and prevent against future damage.
Scriber thanked Cuomo for the funding and support, saying officials want to turn the funding entrusted in the port into jobs that benefit the local and state agricultural markets.
“This is going to mean a lot of local jobs during the construction phase,” Scriber said. “And it will have a stimulus effect by itself not only during the initial building phase but in the labor it takes to operate. It’ll mean more hours for people working at the port.”