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State official is briefed on project list

Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer's upstate development chief visited Niagara County on Wednesday.

Dan Gundersen, chairman of Upstate Empire State Development, met with county leaders for about 80 minutes in the Industrial Development Agency offices in an unannounced session.

Among those attending were County Manager Gregory D. Lewis, County Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, Legislature Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma, Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker, Niagara USA Chamber President Deanna Brennen and top officials of the county's economic-development staff.

Updegrove, who is also chairman of the Legislature's Economic Development Committee, said the county officials did not ask for support for any particular projects.

Instead, they briefed him on the IDA's recent record, with special emphasis on the nearly $1 billion in investment that HSBC Bank plans for its new Cambria computer center.

There was also discussion of the county's plans for use of the low-cost electricity it is to receive from the Niagara Power Project as part of the New York Power Authority's new license to operate that plant. Two local companies have already expressed interest, Updegrove said.

IDA Executive Director Samuel M. Ferraro said in an Economic Development Committee meeting Wednesday that Empower Niagara, as the county's power-distribution agency is known, is making applications for power available on the county Web site. Also, Ferraro said Fred Teeter, the IDA's marketing consultant, is spreading the word among Canadian businesses that might be lured into opening U.S. locations in Niagara County.

Burmaster has yet to appoint the three legislators who will serve on the Empower Niagara board, which will make the decisions on who gets the power and how much.

"Mr. Gundersen said Niagara County was the model for business growth and retention efforts," Updegrove said. "We asked him what he wanted from us, and his response was, he was satisfied with our own marketing efforts."

Gundersen could not be reached to comment Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Christina P. Orsi, business-development representative for Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, told the committee that the regional development agency has succeeded in two small business projects in Niagara County this year.

Orsi said Sofanou Plastics Manufacturing decided to stay in Niagara County and invest $300,000 in an expansion in Wheatfield instead of moving to Texas. Thirty jobs were retained and eight new ones created, Orsi said.

Also, Tech Span Distribution of Mississauga, Ont., agreed to open a U.S. location and create two jobs, although Orsi said the site has yet to be chosen.

She said Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the county and the Town of Niagara are working to obtain funding from National Grid to make the former National Guard installation on Porter Road into a "shovel-ready" business location. Engineering work may take six more months, she said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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