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Gillibrand unveils plans to trigger high-tech manufacturing growth

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced her support for three programs designed to help stimulate manufacturing in areas with high unemployment.

The senator was in Olean on Monday to unveil the proposals, which she hopes will spark more high-tech manufacturing growth.

"It's all been introduced," said James Rahm, a spokesman for Gillibrand. "Now we just need to work on building support."

The "Made in America" grant encourages small- to medium-sized manufactures to invest in their infrastructures and workforces to convert to advanced manufacturing, such as clean energy, computer technology or biotechnology. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Businesses would apply to their state or local governments, which would distribute the grants. To qualify, the region must have experienced at least 10 percent unemployment for six consecutive months between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2010, or a decline in manufacturing employment by at least 15 percent in the same time period.

Manufacturing employment in the Buffalo Niagara region has decreased about 18 percent in the three years since the beginning of 2007. There were 60,900 employees in the manufacturing industry in December 2006 and 49,900 employees in that sector in December 2010, according to data from the New York State Labor Department.

Gillibrand also announced her support for the Security in Energy and Manufacturing Act. Other supporters of the act are Sens. Stabenow, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The act would replace the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit with a tax credit and grant combination, allowing more companies to qualify.

Domestic manufacturers could receive 30 percent of the cost of an investment in new, expanded or re-equipped clean energy manufacturing projets as a grant if they cannot use a tax credit.

The act would allocate an additional $5 billion to the $2.3 billion program.

"It's really difficult for businesses to get money from banks and get their business off the ground," Rahm said. "If they can get a grant, an actual lump some of money, they can get their business started."

The new criteria for distributing funds would also give a higher priority to manufacturing facilities than assembly plants.

Gillibrand also is one of 14 senators supporting the New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act. The credit provides a 39 percent tax credit for community development entities to encourage private investment in local business.

The tax credit program traditionally had to be renewed each year. The extension act will make it five years before the tax credit needs to be renewed.

Gillibrand is hopeful that these three programs will be included in a larger jobs package introduced to the Senate next month, Rahm said.

Gillibrand also spoke with farmers in Westfield about the 2012 Farm Bill.

Some of the issues discussed were an overhaul of the milk pricing system, increasing access to capital for family farms and giving local farms more opportunities to sell to schools.

email: mtighe@buffnews.com

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