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An ambitious plan to create a hub for environment-friendly businesses and groups in an old industrial neighborhood near the Cobblestone District was unveiled Wednesday.

The $2.5 million project has yet to secure funding or acquire sites, but advocates insist their plans to create the "Industrial Green" district could attract new companies and high-paying jobs to the region. It would include a business incubator site that would assist companies whose products or services address environmental concerns.

Supporters hope to position Western New York as the Silicon Valley of "green" business by attracting companies that are involved in the development of alternative energy systems, recycling and other environment-friendly pursuits. They said the region already has an impressive array of companies that are succeeding in this lucrative niche.

The blueprints for the new district are the brainchild of three 1999 graduates of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. Scott Adams, Joshua Alter and Colleen Ryan were recently hired by the city to refine their concept.

Initial plans call for the construction of two buildings on a three-acre site that is bounded by Perry, Scott, East Market and Chicago streets. Some of the space would be used for exhibits that would showcase Buffalo's historic and cultural past, including an attraction called the Wall of Knowledge that would be constructed from recycled concrete grain silos. Other space would be used for community events and perhaps house local environmental groups

Long-term plans are to link the complex to an environmental business incubator on an adjacent site. The facility would offer inexpensive space, shared services and business and marketing assistance.

"An incubator would provide the kind of support that helps small businesses to get off the ground and allows them to collaborate with existing companies," said S. Bruce Kohrn of SBK Environmental Research, an Amherst consulting company.

Planners have called the main building "Symbiosis" and have proposed that the space be considered as a site for exhibits for the 2001 Pan-American Exposition.

Renderings and a scale model of the project were made public Wednesday at a meeting of the Green Gold Development Corp., a coalition that includes representatives from the business community, the public sector, the academic arena and citizen groups. The coalition was formed by Common Council President James W. Pitts in hopes of forging strategies to promote the growth of environmental technology companies.

Bill Nowak, a Common Council staffer who is aliaison to the Green Gold, stressed that a final site has not been selected, but he said members concur on the merits of creating an eco-industrial corridor. The parcels in the Scott-Perry area are owned by CSX Corp. and there have been preliminary discussions about the possibility of using the land in a long-term lease arrangement.

Other possible sites include parcels in the Kensington Heights neighborhood and in the Town of Tonawanda.

Pitts announced that he is setting up a new committee to further study the proposed environment district. Advocates have already been in touch with state and federal officials about the prospects for obtaining grants to assist with the project.

But one of Mayor Masiello's top development officials cautioned advocates not to get ahead of themselves. Kevin Greiner, executive vice president of economic development projects for the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., said planners should throughly research the specific sectors that they hope to attract and determine whether the region can offer competitive advantages to such businesses.

"It seems a little early to carve out a specific green development site without answering some fundamental questions," he said. "You can fire a shotgun so wide that you end up missing your mark badly."

But others argued that selecting a tentative site helps to make the plans "more concrete," enhancing the chances that the project will become a reality.

Trade Council slates exporting seminars
Businesses that are interested in exporting their products or services may participate in four seminars sponsored by the Niagara International Trade Council.

The first session on Sept. 8 will focus on exporting strategies and market selection.

The fee for the four courses is $225 for non-members of ITC and $175 for members. Individual sessions cost $69 for non-members and $49 for members. For information, call 852-7160.

TDC sets seminars for manufacturers
A series of seminars by the Western New York Technology Development Center Inc. will be held this fall to help manufacturing and technology companies improve their bottom lines.

The first seminar on Sept. 8 will focus on strategic planning. Future sessions will look at marketing new products, lean manufacturing and strategies for protecting intellectual assets.

Each session costs $60.

For information, call 636-3626.

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