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State legislators have obtained $50,000 from Albany to allow the Heritage Village of Niagara concept to take the next step toward becoming a reality.

The funding, which will pay for an essential feasibility study of the proposal, was announced Friday by three Republicans, State Sen. George D. Maziarz of North Tonawanda and Assemblymen Robert A. Daly of Niagara Falls and David E. Seaman of Lockport.

Led by Maziarz, the officials obtained the crucial funding from the state's community enhancement fund, said Robert Rubin, director of the Office of Economic and Community Development of the Greater Lewiston Business and Professional Association.

The gathering of officials for the announcement Friday was a fine example of the cooperation between state, county and local governments that will be needed if the project is to become a reality, Rubin said.

"I'm passionate about it," said Rubin, "but what I realized today was that there are other people out there who have that passion too."

The Heritage Village plan would re-create a tourist attraction based on Niagara County village life from the mid-1800s to 1920 or so. Ideas for working exhibits so far include a bakery, blacksmith shop, Tuscarora Indian settlement, a Civil War military encampment, and a rail station where sightseers would arrive by train car.

The $50,000 will be used to hire a national consulting firm to come to Niagara County and try to gauge the plan's chances of success, offer suggestions on strategic marketing, and gauge its economic impact on the area.

Groups that will offer input on the study, Rubin said, include: the Sanborn Historical Society, the Niagara County Arts Council, the Niagara County Historical Society, the Lewiston Arts Council, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, Niagara County Department of Planning and Tourism, and various chambers of commerce.

The consulting firm could be chosen as early as next week, said Rubin. The requests for proposal have been returned, with eight firms competing for the job.

Whichever firm is chosen should be under contract the following week, said Rubin. The results of the study are expected for unveiling June 1.

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