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Hydropower sale funds new jobs, workforce training

A North Tonawanda manufacturer and an initiative to train workers for jobs in the health care industry received a total of $800,000 in funding from a state fund that disburses money raised through the sale of unallocated hydropower.

Ascension Industries, a North Tonawanda metal fabricator and filtration manufacturer, received $300,000 in funding from the Western New York Power Allocation Board for a $2.7 million project in Canada to produce a skid-mounted machine that will convert post-recycled municipal waste into green power.

Ascension executives said the project, which is expected to add 15 jobs to its 131-person workforce, is the “manufacturing opportunity of a lifetime” by pairing the local firm with the Ottawa-based developer of a new waste-to-energy technology.

State officials described the project as being on the “cutting edge” of clean energy technology that could revolutionize the way municipalities handle their municipal waste. The skid-mounted facility will be the first of its kind.

The project, targeted to begin in November and be completed by the end of next year, is expected to expand the capacity of Ascension’s North Tonawanda factory and create jobs that will pay an average of $60,000 a year, state officials said.

The power allocation board also approved $500,000 in funding for a $21.1 million job-training project at the site of the former Sheehan Hospital on Michigan Avenue in Buffalo. The award was less than 20 percent of the $3.45 million that its developers, 425 Michigan Avenue LLC, a division of McGuire Development, had been seeking.

The job-training center will focus on preparing unemployed residents of the city’s East Side for professions in health care. The center will include classrooms, a care facility simulator and an information technology laboratory.

Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen has been urging Erie Community College to consider moving its health-related programs, such as training for medical and dental assistants, phlebotomists and technicians, to the Sheehan site.

McGuire Development Co. acquired the Sheehan site last year for $2 million, with plans to redevelop the 87-acre property as a hub for medical, science and workforce training. Time Warner Cable announced Monday that it will locate a call center at the former hospital property that will create 152 new jobs.

Funding for the projects comes from a pool of $23.2 million that has been set aside for economic development projects within 30 miles of the Niagara Power Project. The funds were raised through the sale of Niagara hydropower that was sold in the open market because it had not been allocated to a local company.