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Buffalo Billion developers announce plans for new technology-based hubs

More than a month after the state announced that developers LPCiminelli and McGuire Development Co. would have the lead roles in creating two new technology-based “hubs” planned under the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, officials on Thursday unveiled what each would be doing.

LPCiminelli will be responsible for developing the Buffalo High-Tech Innovation and Commercialization Hub at Riverbend in South Buffalo, where two California-based solar-technology firms plan to relocate substantial operations and create 850 jobs.

McGuire will handle development of the planned Buffalo IT Innovation and Commercialization Hub, featuring a 100,000-square-foot operation and 500 jobs for computer giant IBM Corp. at a downtown Buffalo location that has not yet been determined.

Under separate memoranda of understanding between each developer and the State University of New York, whose SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is driving the initiative, the two developers will begin work on the separate real estate projects.

“We have identified key development opportunities, attracted cutting-edge businesses willing to make Buffalo home, and selected sites for high-tech projects that will create hundreds of good-paying, sustainable jobs,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release. “This progress will help us continue realizing the goals behind the Buffalo Billion.”

The state announced in November that it would invest $225 million from the $1 billion that Cuomo has pledged to the region to convert the 88-acre vacant former Republic Steel manufacturing site into the Riverbend technology hub campus for high-tech and “green energy” manufacturing. The state’s money will leverage $1.5 billion that will be invested by the two California solar companies, Soraa and Silevo, who will be the initial anchor tenants in the new complex, according to the plan.

The initial 280,000-square-foot building will house both Soraa and Silevo, and will house Silevo’s first North American manufacturing operation making solar electric panels. That company will occupy 232,000 square feet, of which 20,000 is for administration and business offices, while the rest is for manufacturing.

Silevo will focus on its hybrid solar power module technology, called Triex, while also conducting research on “next-generation” improvements to its products. It plans to invest $750 million to “build out” the space and buy manufacturing equipment, and will create 475 jobs, including manufacturing engineers, operators, and maintenance and facilities staff.

Soraa will move its manufacturing and corporate research and development functions to Riverbend, where it will make LED lights.

“From the day Governor Cuomo discussed the vision for RiverBend, we have been excited about the possibilities and the fact that this could be a game-changer for the future of Western New York,” said LPCiminelli Chairman and CEO Louis P. Ciminelli, in a release.

McGuire’s work is less definite. The state said in February that it would invest $55 million more from the Buffalo Billion to create the new IT Innovation and Commercialization Hub, with 500 new software and technology development jobs from IBM as the first tenants. No location has been identified.

All of the facilities and equipment will be formally owned by SUNY’s Fort Schuyler Management Corp., an entity that was formed to facilitate research and economic development.