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County seeks grant for incubator

Niagara County's economic development staff plans aggressive marketing of opportunities and locations in the county this year, Legislature Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove told his colleagues Tuesday.

In an annual report on economic development, Updegrove, R-Lockport, said one of those initiatives is a $6 million grant request to Albany for funding to erect an incubator building at the industrial park in Wheatfield owned by the county Industrial Development Agency.

If funded, the building at Vantage International Park on Lockport Road would cover 50,000 square feet and would be the home for multiple new technology businesses.

Updegrove said National Grid, the New York Power Authority, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy are among potential funding sources for the building, which he said would be the template for "green construction and responsible growth for Niagara County."

The IDA will market the county's two state-certified shovel-ready technology sites, Cambria Technology Park and Niagara Airport Commercial Park.

The latter could also be used for airport-related development, Updegrove said. The county also will look for marketing results from the newly formed not-for-profit Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders Group, which seeks to lure more airline business to the facility.

Updegrove said the county will keep working to ensure the continued operation of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, the county's largest employer. Tuesday, the county presented a $40,000 check to Merrell Lane, chairman of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, to help pay for a Washington lobbying firm.

Also this year, the county will push the Power Authority to use the proceeds from the out-of-area sale of unused replacement and expansion power from the Niagara Power Project to support local projects.

The county also will seek applicants for the replenished Empower Niagara program, which makes electrical allocations to small companies in the county. The Legislature redirected power to the program that had been used by the county's water and sewer districts.

"Creating shovel-ready development sites and centralizing information on project review procedures at various levels of government are the types of initiatives that help speed up the development process, which is an incentive for businesses and developers," Updegrove said.

Also at last week's meeting, the Legislature cut the county's allocation of low-cost power to Snow Park LLC in Niagara Falls from 400 kilowatts to 300 kilowatts -- before it expires this summer.

The business, once a year-round winter sports attraction, now a retail store, doesn't need as much electricity as it thought it would, county officials said.

The Legislature also accepted two grants from National Grid for brownfield projects.

The utility gave the county $300,000 toward demolitions at a former missile base off Shawnee Road in Cambria.

The other grant was $25,000 to pay for environmental testing at the former Barker Chemical site in Somerset to determine whether past cleanups were successful.

In other business, the Legislature scheduled a public hearing for 6:45 p.m. March 6 on a three-year renewal of the 4 percent bed tax on hotel and motel bills outside the county's three cities. The money is sent to the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., the countywide tourism promotion agency.

Lawmakers also passed a resolution urging the state to restore full funding to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to do away with state funding for the cancer center by 2014; his proposed budget contains $102 million for Roswell Park this year.