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Bakers deal not done yet

New England Natural Bakers considering Deerfield location

DEERFIELD — It turns out that the former Bendix-Repal property in Greenfield is not the only place in which New England Natural Bakery is looking into building.

Representatives from the bakery appeared before the Deerfield Board of Selectmen Wednesday night to express their interest in the former Oxford Foods pickle factory property in South Deerfield.

The town purchased the 16-acre site in 2008 with hopes of using it to enhance the local economy, but has thus far been unable to find a buyer. In 2013, the town attempted to sell the property, but received no bids.

The town’s new highway garage, which was finished earlier this year, was built on four acres of the property, leaving the other 12 acres open for development.

The property has also been looked at as a potential site for a mixed use commercial and office district, as well as a senior or affordable housing development due to its proximity to the downtown area.

On Monday, Greenfield Mayor William Martin told the Town Council that the company wants to build a new factory on the Bendix-Repal property on Laurel Street extension. The bakery, which makes organic granola and muesli, has been operating out of its Fairview Street location for over a decade and is looking to expand as the company grows.

According to John Broucek, the company’s president and general manager, which location the company chooses to build the expansion on hinges on how quickly the project can be started. He said both the Oxford and Bendix-Repal properties are suitable locations for the expansion, but that the company’s rapid growth makes time the primary factor in its decision.

“Our position is that with our assertive sales, we have to act on whatever property we can get into soonest,” said Broucek. “We’re very appreciative of how well the mayor and (Robert) Pyers have worked with us to make this happen and it’s extremely likely. But if there’s a possibility of something happening sooner, then we have to be open to that.”

As it stands now, Broucek said the company has collected far more information about the Greenfield site than the Deerfield site, and the process of doing so is much further along at that location than in Deerfield.

Martin said he will ask the Town Council to consider giving the company a Tax Increment Financing tax break to help with the financial burden the company will realize after building the new, larger space. He said the town plans to use a state grant to build a road and raze the two buildings that are currently on the property to make from for the expansion.

Furthermore, Martin said the town plans on eventually building a small ‘server building’ on the property to provide businesses that build there with high-speed Internet, as well as a small solar farm.

“Bendix has had lots of progress, a lot of the issues were resolved, and it looks good, but we’re not ready to say we’re 100 percent sure yet,” said Broucek.

Neither Martin nor Pyers, who is Greenfield’s economic development director, could be reached for comment by press time today.

According to Carolyn Shores Ness, the chairwoman of the Deerfield Board of Selectmen, the topic will be on the agenda at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 13.

Should the company decide to go with the Oxford property, she said, they would have to go through the town’s request for proposal process. If successful, they would be able to begin construction as early as Sept. 13.

Ness said the town would be happy to have the bakery in town.

According to Broucek, the bakery has explored two locations in Turners Falls and another location in Greenfield over the past six months, but it has been difficult to find a seven-to-10-acre lot that is zoned for industrial activity.

Broucek previously said the company plans to add 25 new jobs over the next few years. He said the company plans to build a 60,000-square-foot factory if it decides to go with the Bendix property. The current factory is a 28,000-square-foot building, and the company also has a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Turners Falls.

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