The money is starting to flow for the state’s high-profile Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.
The state’s main economic development agency, Empire State Development, on Friday gave formal approval to $168 million in funding, nearly 17 percent of the $1 billion in investment Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pledged for economic development projects in the Buffalo Niagara region.
The biggest chunk of money – $118 million – is going to the clean energy and high-tech manufacturing hub the state plans to create at the former Republic Steel plant in South Buffalo.
The grant approved by the ESD board of directors Friday will provide more than half of the $225 million that the state has pledged to invest in the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing and Innovation Hub at Riverbend.
The money will be used to cover initial development costs and help purchase the machinery and equipment that will be installed at the state-owned facility, which officials hope will act as a magnet for high-tech and clean energy companies that want access to the costly yet sophisticated machinery within the hub.
Most of the grant – $107 million – will reimburse the State University of New York’s Fort Schuyler Management Co., the agency that has coordinated the project’s development, for costs it incurs as it acquires and develops the infrastructure on the property for the hub, as well as planning and design and construction costs and machinery and equipment acquisition.
A pair of California clean energy companies, LED lighting manufacturer Soraa and solar panel manufacturer Silevo, agreed to become the first two tenants in a facility that state officials hope will lure many other innovative manufacturers to the region.
The state on Thursday said Buffalo development company LPCiminelli will be responsible for developing the RiverBend project.
The remaining $107 million that the state has committed to the project is expected to be presented to the Empire State Development board at a later date, state officials said.
The ESD board also approved a $50 million grant for the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which will create a facility that will support drug screening, pharmaceutical development and bioinformatics research and development, among other uses.
The grant amounts to about 20 percent of the estimated $250 million price tag for the hub, which is being developed by a partnership among Fort Schuyler Management, the SUNY College of Nanoscience and Engineering in Albany, drug development company Albany Molecular Research and the Medical Campus.
The grant is expected to help pay for the acquisition of the facility and renovation work, along with mechanical and equipment costs.
The third project receiving funding from the state development agency was the Edison Welding Institute, which is planning a center that will help advanced manufacturers by providing them access to equipment and engineering services that they otherwise might not be able to afford on their own.
The ESD grant for $800,000 will cover start-up expenses and initial operating costs associated with the initiative, which will be located at 847 Main St. in Buffalo. Another $45 million grant that will provide the funding to cover the initial start-up of the institute is expected to come before the ESD board at a future meeting.
“The state is making smart investments and supporting innovative projects in up-and-coming industries,” said Kenneth Adams, Empire State Development’s president and chief executive officer.