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County considers bonding entity

Niagara County is considering the formation of a new entity that would offer bonding authority for construction projects by private businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The Niagara Area Development Corp. would be controlled by the board of the county Industrial Development Agency, which lost the ability to offer bonding among its services when a state law authorizing such deals expired a couple of years ago.

"This is being done to restore that," IDA Chairman Henry M. Sloma said.

A resolution to create the corporation was introduced in the County Legislature last week and was referred to committee.

Sloma said he doesn't know of the IDA turning away any applicants for bonding, but he said, "They may not have shown up because they knew we couldn't do it."

The IDA has assisted many nonprofits in the past, including construction of the Dwyer Arena at Niagara University, the student housing at Niagara County Community College and the Niagara Falls Housing Authority's HOPE VI housing project.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara are among other agencies the IDA has helped.

The bonds are debts of the recipients of the bonding power, not of the county or the IDA.

In another development effort at last week's meeting, the Legislature passed a resolution calling for the City of Niagara Falls to expand the area in which the Opportunity Zone program can be used.

The program offers a five-year, 100 percent property tax exemption for new businesses with an investment of less than $1 million in downtown areas of the county's three cities.

So far, the program has drawn no applications in Niagara Falls or North Tonawanda and only one in Lockport.

Despite the apparent lack of interest, the Legislature asked the city to approve expanding the borders of the Niagara Falls zone to include the Buffalo Avenue business district east of 65th Street.

"It targets a distressed area in the City of Niagara Falls," said Legislator Vincent M. Sandonato, R-Niagara Falls.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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