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WNY development council approves list of projects to compete for funding

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has given its stamp of approval to a list of priority projects in its five-county region that will compete for up to $760 million in the state’s third round of economic development funding.

The priority list of 16 projects, together with the Council’s 2013 progress report that was also approved, must now be finalized and submitted to the state by Tuesday.

“As we embark on year three of Gov. Cuomo’s Regional Council initiative, it is clear momentum is building in Western New York,” said Satish K. Tripathi, co-chairman of the Western New York regional council and president of the University at Buffalo.

The recommended projects include:

• Investing in infrastructure along the MetroRail line in Buffalo to encourage smart growth.

• Reconstructing the Lakefront Boulevard Seawall in Dunkirk and redeveloping the boulevard into a tourist destination.

• Helping Erie County buy 94 acres of brownfield property on the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna to start redevelopment.

• Rehabilitating the McNallie Building in Randolph as part of redeveloping blighted anchor properties.

• Converting the historic former Rushford Elementary School in Rushford into housing and commercial space.

• Investing in more high-performance advanced computing and data analytics at UB’s Center for Computational Research.

• Converting a former fire station in Niagara Falls into a trades job training facility, whose students will work on renovated, city-owned, condemned properties.

• Consolidating municipal water supplies in northern Chautauqua County to enhance inadequate water systems.

• Creating a new Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Center at Alfred State College to train students in state-of-the-art techniques that advanced manufacturers’ desire.

• Creating the nation’s first Rare Earth Recycling facility in partnership with TAM Ceramics Group of NY, which will work with Niagara County Community College, Orleans-Niagara BOCES, Alfred University and UB to develop skills training, advanced technologies and rare-earth material uses.

• Relocating the Flying Bison brewery to downtown Buffalo to increase its visibility and ability to grow.

• Supporting creation of Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Center for Personalized Medicine to develop a comprehensive gene test to treat cancer patients.

• Restoring the original Allan Herschell Co. office building as part of the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum to complete restoration of the entire complex.

• Restoring the interior of the Darwin D. Martin House.

• Demolishing a long-vacant supermarket in Lockport’s downtown and spending $11 million to build a two-pad hockey arena and related retail space.

• Restoring the historic 1926 Hollywood Theatre in Gowanda’s historic district.

The Western New York council, one of 10 created by Cuomo in 2011 to stimulate economic growth and create jobs, covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.

The council’s regional strategic plan targets key industry sectors of advanced manufacturing, agriculture, binational logistics, energy, health and life sciences, higher education, professional services and tourism. The plan focuses on promoting smart growth, building on regional strengths, improving the region’s image, impacting the entire area and targeting young adults.

“There is positive change happening in Western New York,” said Howard A. Zemsky, co-chairman with Tripathi of the regional council, and managing partner at Larkin Development Group. “The progress is evident in our council’s strategies – all of which are focused on building on our strengths, creating jobs and investing in the future.”

To date, since the start of the regional council system, Western New York has invested $153 million in strategic projects, focused on the medical campus, tourism and advanced manufacturing, Tripathi noted. Of those 156 projects from the first two rounds in 2011 and 2012, 92 percent are on schedule, while the rest have been canceled either because a grant was denied, the state funding was significantly less than the grant or the project moved to another part of the state.

In between regular funding rounds, the council has also backed $58 million in funding for business expansion projects that will leverage $630 million in private-sector investment. Those projects, which claim to create or retain more than 6,500 jobs, include Yahoo!, Welded Tube, Rich Products Corp., FedeX, Time Warner Cable and recently Alita, among others. The draft regional report is available at