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Effort worth making; Proposal for high-tech industrial park?could be an economic driver for WNY

Call it the STAMP Act for the 21st century. Unlike its revenue-raising namesake of the 18th century, the proposed Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park is a potent economic development effort centered at a key location in Genesee County. At 1,200 acres, the effort is huge in size as well as in its objectives.

Plans for the park have been percolating for six years, said Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, proposed for a site in the Town of Alabama, five miles north of the Pembroke interchange on the New York State Thruway.

Backers say the long-term project – expected to take 15 to 20 years from the start of construction – could produce 30,000 jobs from Buffalo to Rochester and attract $10 billion in private capital investment. Economic development officials, including Hyde and Thomas A. Kucharski, president and CEO of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, say they have received positive feedback from the technology-intensive industries they are trying to attract. Those industries include semiconductor chip manufacturers as well as other high-tech industries, including solid-state lighting and photovoltaic products.

This is an effort well worth making, but it won't be cheap. The cost of fully developing STAMP is estimated at $250 million, but the initial cost is expected to be about $25 million. With that, backers hope to land a significant tenant and then continue to build out.

The advantages of the location are several. The site is a large, low-vibration "greenfield" offering a lot of expansion room, while also putting potential manufacturers close to many colleges as well as the large labor centers in Buffalo and Rochester.

The next step is a town vote to rezone the proposed acreage for STAMP. That vote is expected before the end of the year. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is focused on the project, requesting $12.5 million in state funding.

The project looks to be just the kind of thing for the region to pursue. A similar one in the Town of Batavia has succeeded with a similar build-out strategy. The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park has already attracted the commitments of two yogurt plants, including a $206 million Muller Quaker Dairy plant, slated to open next year.

Given the planning that has already gone into this project, the support of leading economic development agencies and the reported interest from high-tech manufacturers, there is reason to believe this proposed plan can succeed, as well. The region's governments and economic development leaders should give this project all the support they can muster.