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Four nonprofits to run Buffalo Billion workplace training hub

A consortium of four local nonprofit agencies has been picked to run the new workforce training center on the East Side that is being created as part of the Buffalo Billion.

The Economic Development Group, a nonprofit agency made up of four local partners - the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance, Catholic Charities of Buffalo,  Goodwill Industries of Western New York and the Buffalo Urban League - will operate the Western New York Workforce Training Center, state officials said Thursday.

The training center at 683 Northland Ave. will be the anchor for the 35-acre parcel of industrial land that the state is aiming to create a $48 million hub for workforce development and other activity on the East Side.

The $20 million training center will occupy about 100,000 square feet in the front of the building at 683 Northland that previously was the site of Clearing Niagara. The training center, aimed at building a cadre of workers with skills that are in demand by local manufacturers and other employers, is part of a larger $48 million light industrial economic development zone that is being created as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.

“The Western New York Workforce Training Center will be a one-stop educational facility," said Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development's president.

As the training center's operator, the Economic Development Group will work with local manufacturers in targeted industries, such as advanced manufacturing and the electric utility sector, to develop training programs that are tailored to the type of skills that are expected to be in demand in those fields. The Economic Development Group will work with local colleges, including Erie Community College, SUNY Alfred State and SUNY Buffalo State, to develop training programs for those targeted industries.

"The primary challenge our manufacturers face is the access to skilled talent," said Peter M. Coleman, the manufacturing alliance's executive director.

The center also will develop ancillary programs and services that state officials believe are essential for allowing a wide range of residents to participate in the hub's training initiatives. Those services include access to child care, transportation and training for the training program's required testing. The center also will offer placement services to help place students in internships during their training and help them find jobs after they complete it. The center also will track its students for three years after they complete their training to measure its effectiveness.

“This initiative will give people, especially those from the underrepresented sectors of our community, the opportunity to be trained and qualified to fill the many advanced manufacturing jobs that currently exist and will be available in the future," said Kevin Donovan, a former top United Auto Workers union official who serves as chairman of the Economic Development Group.

The Northland complex is being funded with $29 million from Empire State Development, along with $15 million from the New York Power Authority and $4 million from the City of Buffalo. Up to $5 million in subsidies from the Buffalo Billion also could be used toward operating expenses during the course of the Economic Development Group's contract, which runs for three years with two options for one-year extensions.

The center is scheduled to open in 2018. Until then, the Economic Development Group will work with Empire State Development and the University at Buffalo Regional Institute to complete a business plan for the center and its operating procedures.

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