By Ann Bartgis
“I see this project as transformational.” Those were the words of Greene County Economic Development Specialist, Frank Alguire, talking about a proposal by Ross Site Development (RSD) of Coxsackie. Company President, Ed Ross, speaks of the recent acquisition of the old American Tree and Wreath building as “a major step forward”.
Beginning eleven years ago with a landscaping business, RSD methodically expanded into site preparation, then into construction. The most recent growth has been in the area of SIPS (structural insulated panels) houses. These panels are constructed at Ross’ location, complete with doors, windows and wrap, then shipped to the building site and erected by a crane. “Our major market so far has been in the areas where hurricane Sandy did so much damage — New Jersey”. Ross began manufacturing these panels just last year; already they have built a dozen houses, with a dozen more “on the books”.
“We began our SIPS panel operation in an available building” said Ross, “but demand became so great that we outgrew it within months. We got to the point where we couldn’t turn around. It surprised me.” A second surprise came from a conversation with Greene County IDA Executive Director, Rene’ VanSchaack when he mentioned a long-vacant building in the center of the Village of Coxsackie. Discussions with the owner quickly followed, and Ross closed on the building nine days after making an offer. Ross said, “We needed to take a major step and this was it. If I was going to invest I wanted to do it in my community and create jobs locally.”
It has proven to be a popular purchase. Mark Evans offered, “As Mayor (of the Village of Coxsackie) I am very excited to see a local businessman in Ed Ross purchase the old American Tree Storage Warehouse on Bailey Street. I have met Mr. Ross and he has some great plans to move one of his businesses in there and start utilizing it again, while cleaning up the building and grounds. This building has been through many owners over the years with the most recent attempting to remove anything of scrap value while leaving the building in horrible looking condition. Ross will have enough room to grow in this building and will once again restore the biggest building in the Village to something we can be proud of.”
Evans’ thoughts were echoed by Alguire. “I saw this project as the elimination of slum and
blight. What (Ross) has done already is transformational. I was in the building 1-2 years ago. It was wet and filthy; I didn’t even know there was a concrete floor. What he has done so far speaks to the kind of person that (Ross) is. This is a great thing.”
The building itself makes quite a statement. Resembling a relocated airplane hanger, there is nearly 134,000 square feet of space; the roof is over 3 acres. A 35’ high bay is next to an overhead door, an office building sits to one side, and there’s a one-acre concrete pad behind the building. All of this is on 12.5 acres, with access to a railroad spur. “I don’t think we’re going to run out of room right away”, laughs Ross. He currently operates with seven employees and plans to more than double that number once the building is set up.
Aside from the original mention of the building, the IDA continues to assist Ross. VanSchaack says, “We are pleased to be able to help (Ross) advance his business plan which represents multiple benefits to the community. The revitalization of a former industrial site that became an eyesore to the community for many years combines with his project that focuses on innovative green building techniques and disaster recovery housing to make this a winner!” The IDA initially assisted Ross with environmental assessment of the site and the local zoning and planning board process. “We envision being able to offer incentives as the project moves through the next stages.”
Alguire notes that “Coxsackie and New Baltimore have become a hot development area; the corridor is popping. I hope (Ross) becomes another major employer.” VanSchaack sums up seemingly everyone’s thoughts by saying, “Yes, jobs are important, but community character, stabilization and/or growth of the tax base are all factors.”
The County’s Quantum Fund committee recently recommended approval of Federal community development block grant funds, and Perry Lasher, The Bank of Greene County Vice President and Director of Commercial Lending, said there is a “partnership” with the Bank. “This is how things are supposed to work”, said VanSchaack. “A business needed to grow and that spurred an acquisition and partnerships that help the entire community.”