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Sat., Aug. 29
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Officials may examine possibility of “Port of Massena”


MASSENA — Companies in Massena that want to ship goods on the St. Lawrence Seaway must send their product 36 miles west to the Port of Ogdensburg.

Those charged with redeveloping the General Motors Powertrain site might use state funds to examine whether part of that property on the St. Lawrence River could host Massena’s own port.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $360,000 Brownfield Opportunity Area grant for Massena in March. The grant will be used for a 485-acre area, including the 220-acre GM property, state officials said previously. St. Lawrence County and the town of Massena jointly applied for the planning and marketing grant more than a year ago.

The county originally planned to use the funds to create a local development corporation to market and sell the GM site, County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said. But after the county applied, the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust assumed ownership and began marketing the site on its own.

The county doesn’t want to turn down the funds, or duplicate efforts, so Ms. St. Hilaire brainstormed a series of ideas not previously studied or researched for the GM site. The state is allowing the county and town to repurpose the funds.

“If we have a company that needs a port, is (the GM property) accessible for a port?” she asked. “If they need a deepwater port, is it a possibility there?”

Ms. St. Hilaire said the money could be used to determine a port’s feasibility and how it could affect business at the Port of Ogdensburg. She also proposed studying whether the site’s rail infrastructure could become part of a larger recreational trail system if it was no longer used for industrial purposes and building off earlier research indicating which types of businesses and industry would be best for the property.

“There are definitely no firm plans on any of them,” she said.

A subcommittee focused on repurposing the grant has been formed on the North Country Redevelopment Task Force. Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he also supported studying a port idea because it could be another selling point for companies considering the GM property.

“If you could make a product and dock a ship here, how great would that be?” he said. “I’m open to discussing anything and everything. Let’s look at all scenarios.”

He also wondered whether the GM site could support a business that could purchase aluminum produced at the nearby Alcoa plants and turn it into some type of product.

“I think we as a community have failed to pursue something like that,” he said.

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