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State OKs $1 million for planning of high-tech manufacturing park

Plans for a high-tech manufacturing park proposed for Genesee County got an encouraging stamp of approval Thursday.

The Empire State Development Corp. approved $1 million in state funding for the research and planning of the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park, a 1,340-acre site envisioned for the Town of Alabama in the northwest corner of Genesee County.

The complex aims to draw 21st century manufacturing companies to Western New York, which would in turn provide high-quality jobs to the region. Planners project the creation of 9,300 jobs in Genesee County.

"The reason I fought so hard for this money is because creating jobs is probably the number one issue in New York State, and these are not our grandfathers' jobs," said State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst. "These emerging, advancing fields are the wave of the future, and it's nice to see Western New York being able to compete on a global scale."

The long-term plan calls for construction of a campuslike group of buildings to support high-tech and green manufacturing uses, such as the development of photovoltaic cells and flat-panel displays. That five-year phase of the project is expected to cost a total of $1.35 million, with the remaining $350,000 tab being picked up by National Grid.

Having that master planning completed is a major headache for high-tech companies, so the county's completion of it in advance will be an attractive selling point, planners said.

Other factors expected to appeal to potential companies include the site's location. The site, between Buffalo and Rochester and near Interstate 90, puts it within a 60-minute drive of 2 million people and a large, underemployed work force. It is also situated amid superior powerline and pipeline infrastructure, and lies within the New York Power Authority low-cost hydropower zone -- an important consideration for industries known to be heavy energy users. Just running power transmission lines could have cost $1 million per mile.

"It's so much easier for companies to be able to just come and hook into that, rather than redoing it all," said Steve Hyde, Genesee County Economic Development Center president.

In fact, a similar project in Saratoga cost semiconductor foundries AMD and GlobalFoundries $4.2 billion to construct. Hyde expects the STAMP park project to cost a fraction of that, thanks to the area's existing systems. Though a price tag has not been finalized, the project's total cost is expected to be somewhere in the low nine figures.

The actual building construction would not take place until interested companies chose to sign on for space. Though the complex is not expected to be fully built and occupied for 20 years, the project's planners said they will be able to begin marketing and selling the space by 2011.

"What's nice about the project is that we don't have to do it all at once, we can make investments as we go," said Hyde. "It's a long process, but the return on investment to the community makes it one of the most transformative plans for revitalization in years."

e-mail: schristmann@buffnews.com

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