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IDA SAYS INTERNATIONAL SERVICE KEY IN AIRPORT PLAN

The integration of international air service at the Niagara Falls International Airport will be a key component in a joint operation plan expected to be unveiled next month before the County Legislature, the director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency said Tuesday.

"There clearly is an opportunity here," said John R. Simon. "Within a month, we will present (the plan) to the board and show the Legislature what is going on with the airport."

Simon previewed the plan for board trustees during a regular meeting Tuesday of the Niagara County IDA, targeting three areas for improvement at the facility:

International freight and cargo.

International maintenance, warehousing and distribution.

International air service.

"The airport offers a unique opportunity to land 747s and wide-body aircraft, warehouse and distribute their products while allowing the craft to be serviced," Simon explained.

Simon, calling the project a work in progress, described the joint operation plan with the Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. as a blueprint that "only scratches the surface."

"We are not done," Simon added.

Preliminary plans call for a public benefit corporation, possibly operated under the umbrella of the county IDA. Infrastructure would be developed for freight air, rail and truck service and for international passenger jets too large to land at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga.

On another topic, a lengthy and often lively discussion over a 100-room hotel project in Niagara Falls ended with the trustees approving a sale/lease-back agreement, but tabling their decision on the PILOT schedule.

The Hampton Inn, proposed for a 1.1-acre lot on Rainbow Boulevard, lists a total project cost of $4.9 million and will employ 14 full-time workers, according to Gary E. Kelsey, manager of finance. Questions regarding the project's designation as commercial or residential were repeatly asked by board member Robert R. Villani.

"Is it consistent with other hotel projects the agency has been involved with?" Villani asked. "Does it fit as commercial or retail?"

Villani admitted that his concern with the hotel project -- proposed by Jay Ram Inc. of Orchard Park -- was non-payment of PILOT fees.

"Historically you'll find that the hotels we've helped have a problem with PILOT payments," Villani said. "We don't have knowledge of how many hotels downtown are current with their PILOTs."

In other action, the board:

Approved a $13 million proposal by Niagara University, including a bid to refinance the university's $5.6 million Civic Facility Bond issue, finance its $4 million dormitory project plan and a $1 million information technology upgrade.

Unanimously approved a $30,000 loan for the Wilson Community Pharmacy Inc. at 272 Pettit St.

Was briefed on the Stavatti project. Stavatti, a 5-year-old Minnesota firm that produces military and non-military aircraft, is eyeing the former Bell Aerospace facility at the Niagara Falls Airport, according to Simon.

"They are at the point of developing their prototype aircraft," Simon said. "We are actively trying to offer an incentive package, and expect a decision within 30 days. We have an offer on the table, and they have not accepted it yet."

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