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Agency to use $2 million from state to prepare site for high-tech facility

A state grant of $2 million is being put to use by the Genesee County Economic Development Center to prepare a shovel-ready site for its most ambitious project: a high-tech manufacturing facility.

The Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Plant is planned for a 1,250-acre site in the northwest corner of the town and about five miles from Thruway Exit 48A.

The economic development center board has awarded $2.35 million in seven contracts for design, water and sewer studies, environmental impact and legal work for an area of farms and wetlands. State and federal wildlife refuges are adjacent to the site at Route 77 and Judge Road.

Town board approval on a zoning change from agricultural to high-tech is needed to recognize the type of advanced manufacturing companies that would locate there, turning out solar panels, computer chips and flat-panel displays. The Town Board will meet Monday to review the generic environmental impact statement. At least two public hearings to gauge residents' input also will be scheduled.

Mark A. Masse, the economic development center's senior vice president of operations, said construction will not be started this year but land acquisition, site studies, marketing research and surveys of residents will be. He said that an application for $350,000 is being prepared for a grant from National Grid, which has already been involved in an environmental study that was approved last year.

The rural town of 1,800 residents plus about 500 on the adjoining Tonawanda Indian Reservation would see a workforce of 10,000 in the next two decades if the project is completed.

Also pending is a temporary or provisional wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This would permit the center to market the plant to potential high-tech clients. Part of the area -- adjacent to acres of federal and state protected wildlife refuges -- is a swamp bisected by the Oak Orchard Creek.