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Cuomo’s clean-energy plan gives Buffalo the seeds for a new economy

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo knows how to deliver on a billion-dollar promise.

He came into town Thursday with this blockbuster announcement: the creation of a clean-energy research campus on 90 acres of land along the Buffalo River that will include two initial tenants moving from California and China to create 850 jobs.

Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend represents the governor’s largest down payment on the billion-dollar promise that he made to this area last year. Indeed, his was the biggest announcement of state support in years, and perhaps ever. Cuomo deserves high praise, as does Western New York Regional Development Council Co-chairman Howard Zemsky, on whom the governor heaps praise, along with Alain Kaloyeros, from SUNY’s nanoscale college.

The RiverBend project will inject $225 million in state funding to build the first of six buildings on a brownfield site. Cuomo and his team talk convincingly of the site becoming the center of some of the nation’s leading clean and green energy research.

Tenants will be SORAA and Silevo. This adds up to 850 jobs, mostly filled by drawing from local colleges and universities for well-paying salaries. Make no mistake, these are not “plans” or “proposals,” as the governor pointed out, but real investment. It’s happening. This is a game-changer.

Cuomo is determined to put Buffalo at the top of the state map, if not the country’s. Like governors before him, he saw a need here; but unlike those before him, he did something about it. And he keeps working at it.

The RiverBend project will be run by the State University of New York’s Research Foundation, which is headquartered in Albany, and with assistance from top officials at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, SUNY’s newest college, which has experienced tremendous job growth in Albany while focusing the past two decades on nanoscience research.

Kaloyeros, a superstar in his field, summed it up best when he said, “This is like the Yankees coming to Buffalo. This is like the Bills winning the Super Bowl.”

Companies may be lured here with expensive state-of-the-art equipment but they will remain for the growing synergy that leverages the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and other developments here and in Niagara Falls.

Cuomo is bringing this area the biggest slug of a real billion-dollar promise, for which he took a considerable amount of political heat in other parts of the state. Zemsky’s work on the regional council, as the governor said, has been transformative. He has put in three years of hard work, bringing businesses to the table with academia, encouraging them to devise a privately driven plan for economic revitalization while government funds the infrastructure.

Kaloyeros, father of the nanoscience revolution in Albany, used that model in Albany. The state built a research and development facility in nanoscience; companies in the chip manufacturing business that needed a state-of-the-art clean room had to come to Kaloyeros’ facility and, hence, Albany. So many companies arrived, it started a cluster economy.

Now, the concept – in clean-energy research – will leverage some of Buffalo’s many resources, including its colleges and access to water, along with an economic development model that has been proven. This is something big.