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OBPA wants to foster yogurt culture in Ogdensburg

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OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is making a full-court press to get in on the Greek yogurt boom before the opportunity curdles.

The authority’s board of directors approved a $40,000 agreement with Phoenix Corporate Services of Boston, Mass., to market a prospectus, or concept proposal, for a Greek yogurt manufacturing facility on sites OBPA owns in Ogdensburg and Lisbon.

“It is a different approach than has been used here before,” said Frederick S. Morrill, deputy executive director. “We have a product, the prospectus, and this resolution would use that product.”

Instead of trying to attract developers with the authority’s acreage, utility links and transportation hubs, the authority is marketing a concept. Phoenix Corporate Services would act as a kind of headhunter for the authority, linking it to potential developers.

“I think the value here is getting the prospectus into the right hands,” said Wade A. Davis, OBPA executive director. “This is the best chance for a $100 million facility siting here in Ogdensburg that we’ve had for a long time.”

The St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency will contribute 10 percent of the agreement’s cost.

“Somebody else believes in this plan, and are willing to put up $4,000 behind it,” board member Steven J. Barlow said. “That makes it easier for me to support.”

The concept proposal was drafted by John A. Rishe, director of commercial and industrial development, over several months. It was recommended by the author of the OBPA’s marketing plan, DCG Corplan of West Orange, N.J.

Under the plan, the facility would be constructed in the Ogdensburg Industrial Park or on 60 acres owned by the authority in the town of Lisbon. The facility would employ about 50 people.

Upstate New York has become a mecca for Greek yogurt culture after Greek dairy company Fage opened its first processing facility in Johnstown. Other international dairy interests have followed suit, opening facilities in upstate and Western New York.

The $6 billion industry is now a target of state economic development dollars, prompting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to host the state’s first “yogurt summit” last summer.

Phoenix Corporate Services is no stranger to the north country, Mr. Davis said.

“This is the same firm that helped site the North Lawrence facility,” he said.

Frederick J. Carter, vice chairman, did not support the marketing plan.

“I’m not ready to spend $40,000 on this resolution,” he said. “I think we’re playing our hand too quickly. This vision, to me, is down the road about three years.”

Mr. Carter said a yogurt manufacturer might have difficulty finding enough milk to process.

“I’m hearing there’s no milk,” he said. “It’s just one of those things, we have a lot of milk going out of the state.”

Mr. Barlow said the authority should strike while the iron was hot.

“This is a time-sensitive project because so many other people are looking at it,” he said. “If we’re going to get into this, we need to do it now.”

The concept proposal is broader than just Greek yogurt, Mr. Barlow said.

“We’re not just looking at possibilities in the yogurt industry,” he said. “We’re also looking at hops and beer.”

The OBPA is also considering proposals for development at three other sites in Ogdensburg.

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