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North Country Growers misses sales agreement deadline


August 24, 2018
BERLIN North Country Growers missed another deadline, July 31, on the sales and purchase agreement to construct two large-scale greenhouses.

The project was put to halt last year after a decision was made to delay construction that was set for September of last year. Richard Rosen, the Chief Engineer of Operations for North Country Growers parent company, American AG Energy, based out of Boston, Massachusetts. Rosen said that the delay was decided because the company did not want to construct during the heavy winter months. A groundbreaking was set for April, but didn't happen, and then a July 31 deadline was missed.

The Service Credit Union loaned North Country Growers $25 million, and has provided an additional $8.3 million, and the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development will provide 60 percent of the $25 million to construct the two large-scale greenhouses on East Milan Road, a $50 million project. $17 million is coming from private investors.

On June 26 of last year, the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority approved a Purchase and Sales agreement with North Country Growers LLC in a unanimous vote during a special meeting. The City Council later approved it.

In the agreement, North Country Growers would pay $680,000 for 172 acres of land on East Milan Road to construct two large scale hydroponic greenhouses that would take up about 10 acres each. That sale was expected to be completed by March and then July 31 deadline was set. The company paid $20,000 when they signed an option on the land in February last year.

The company met with city leaders and state agencies two winters ago and the project was "well received," according to a press release.

"We've had enormous support from the City and the surrounding area," said Marguerite Piret, Chief Financial Officer of the company.

Jim Wheeler, City Manager of Berlin, confirmed that there are still current discussions on a new option.

"There are no significant developments," he said. "NCG is still actively working on their financing."

The greenhouses would be built on East Milan Road on former Georgia Pacific land if a new purchase and sale agreement goes through. The City purchased the land and added it to the industrial park. The company would use about 43 of 172 acres. The rest of the land is mostly protected wetlands.

Plans are to produce 15 million heads of lettuce per year and eight million pounds of tomatoes at the East Milan Road site to sell to restaurants and grocery stores.

The company attempted six times in the past to make the greenhouses a reality at various sites, but each time, plans fell through.

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