Town of Le Roy advances in "America's Best Communities" competition.

Apr 29, 2015

LE ROY — It’s hard to find a community as uniquely resilient as Le Roy.

Important businesses and industries have come and gone over the past 200 years, as Lynne Belluscio of the Le Roy Historical Society described Wednesday.

Yet the community has always managed reinvent itself, and remains a very special place in the eyes of its residents — along with some significant benefactors.

Le Roy has advanced to the next stage in the $10 million America’s Best Communities competition. It will collect a $50,000 prize, and will compete with 49 other areas for as much as $3 million in award money.

The news was announced during a Le Roy Rotary Club meeting, also attended by a variety of town, village and county officials.

“From here we have our work cut out for us,” said District No. 5 Genesee County Legislator Rochelle Stein. “We need community engagement. We need strategic, long-term plans. And we need short-term gains ...

“We’re going to need you, and we’re going to need your ideas,” she continued. “We’re going to need your comments and we’re going to need you to stand strong with us, because this is about our community. Not one of us could do this alone, and certainly appreciate your support.”

The America’s Best Communities competition is sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel.

Le Roy was among 138 applicants representing 347 communities nationwide. As part of the contest’s next phase, it will now be mentored by IBM as it pursues a community revitalization project in concert with the Town of Bergen.

Le Roy Town Supervisor Stephen Barbeau said the project would involve a future “clean commercial industry” park at the corner of Route 19 and West Bergen Road.

Such a project would expand the community’s commercial tax base, while allowing for good cohabitation among commercial and residential areas, he said.

“The village has graciously allowed us residential-rate access to its sewer system, which is a must for a potential commercial tenants,” he said. “We have a National Grid partnership and substation right across the street. We have municipal water supply. One thing we do lack is high-volume, high-pressure natural gas to that area.”

The Town of Bergen is seeking the exact same thing for a prospective Liberty Pumps expansion, and to allow their commercial part to grow as well, Barbeau said.

Besides the natural gas, securing rural broadband Internet access would also help the community’s agribusiness, while sewer access could help the industrial park at the Thruway interchange.

“This might offer us the opportunity to even move on that project,” Barbeau said.

For every dollar a commercial property generates in tax revenue, the municipality needs to spend 60 or 70 cents in services, he said. That expense decreases to 35 or 40 cents for agriculture, but increases to $1.25 for residential.

The details moving forward still need to be determined, Stein and Barbeau said after the meeting and announcement. The IBM corporation will provide guidance and support as the revitalization plan is forged.

The America’s Best Communities competition will last three years in total.

The top three communities — those with the most innovative proposals being effectively implemented — will share a total of $6 million in prize money. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.

Le Roy was among three Rochester-area communities recognized as quarterfinalists. The others include Livingston County and the Town of Webster.

General Manager Robert Smith, of the Frontier Communications Rochester West division, attended Wednesday’s announcement, which was held at Greens of Le Roy.

“I think it’s the community vision and the culture that’s here,” he said, asked what makes the community special. “I think it’s their desire to grow, and be economically advanced. It really fits in well with the vision they have for the future, for this community. And they have a great group of people who came together to do this.”

He noted the way local leadership has worked together on the project so far. Besides village, town and county officials and residents, it has also included the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“Collaboration is really what this is all about,” Smith said. “It’s bringing all the community leaders together, and people who work within the community, to bring together a common vision.”