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Canadian manufacturer eying Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park

Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park is "a strong finalist" as a potential new site for a Canadian high-tech manufacturer that is looking for a new location with as many as 10 acres of land, officials with Invest Buffalo Niagara and Buffalo Urban Development Corp. said Tuesday.

Invest Buffalo Niagara CEO Thomas Kucharski would not identify the potential company, dubbed Project Chardonnay, that has been working with the regional economic development organization since early January.

Nor would he give any indication of the potential size of the facility or number of jobs. But he said the company would be new to the region.

The interest in Western New York stemmed from IBN's coordinated cross-border outreach efforts to Canadian companies for the past few years, in an effort to demonstrate the attractiveness for them of setting up a U.S. outpost just across the Niagara River in Buffalo.

However, Western New York is in competition for the company with other places in the Northeast, as well as international locations in Canada and even other countries, Kucharski said.

The company is eyeing a 10-acre parcel of land at the urban commerce park owned by BUDC just off Tifft Street and Furhmann Boulevard. It's one of 14 separate properties still remaining in the sprawling 105-acre park, developed from reclaimed waterfront land.

Kucharski said there's no indication of the company's time  frame, but "they love the site."

"I think they're going to do their due diligence," he said. "Every prospect is different, but these guys, when they see something they actually like, that can influence the pace of the project. That's a good thing."

Meanwhile, Project Chardonnay is only one of four current prospects for the park's remaining acres – twice as many as were pending a month ago. "It comes in waves like that," Kucharski said.

BUDC President Peter Cammarata said another company is meeting with BUDC officials next week to discuss details of a property purchase, with officials with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and Empire State Development Corp. in attendance to start talking about possible incentives.

In a third case, a local developer has come forward with a client who needs 100,000 square feet, also on roughly 10 acres, Cammarata said. That would fit perfectly into a particular 9.65-acre parcel that already has a state Brownfield Cleanup Program designation, making it completely shovel-ready.

Cammarata said a fourth potential project is still in discussions. "That's more activity than we've had in quite some time," he told the BUDC Board of Directors.

The risk, though, is that the region could run out of "shovel-ready" sites, especially for much larger companies. While Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park still has more than a dozen sites, only two are larger than 10 acres and most are smaller than six. The RiverBend site, which BUDC formerly owned, was fully used for Tesla.

And while Erie County is pursuing a new business park on former Bethlehem Steel land in Lackawanna, "we already have a lot of interest" in that because of the brownfield tax credits that would come with them, Kucharski said.

"So we've got to be persistent and diligent in providing shovel-ready sites," he said. "You don't know. You could get a whole bunch of them."

BUDC concluded its meeting Tuesday with a private board member only discussion – not a formal executive session, because they lacked quorum – about a proposed acquisition of property. Officials would not provide further information, but Kucharski said the property is separate from Northland or any other existing business park initiative and "could" yield a new opportunity.

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