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The first Buffalo Billion: A billion (and counting)

A guide to the first Buffalo Billion – from SolarCity to IBM – as plans for Phase II take shape:


  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $900 million
  • The project: The state is nearly done building the biggest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere for SolarCity on a 90-acre former brownfield at the Republic Steel site on the Buffalo River in South Buffalo. The state sees the factory as a magnet for other clean energy firms and suppliers.
    Tesla, which bought SolarCity last year, plans to ramp up production of solar panels and modules that will be used in the company’s new solar roof product during the second half of this year.
    SolarCity has started the process of hiring its first entry-level workers for a plant that is expected to have at least 500 manufacturing employees. The company overall has pledged to create 1,460 jobs at the factory and other company operations in the Buffalo Niagara region.
  • Completion date: Summer 2017

[Related: Prospectus 2017/Unveiling the New Buffalo]

IBM Buffalo Innovation Center

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $55 million
  • The project: Create an innovation center in downtown Buffalo that will focus on analyzing the vast amounts of data that companies collect and helping make sense of it all so that companies can identify trends, spot potential problems early on or track customer buying habits. The state also plans to locate a technical services and support center, operated by IBM, within the center.
  • Completion date: Facility opened in 2015 in temporary space and moved into its permanent home in Key Towers late last year. IBM expects its operations will continue to expand through 2021.

Servers are busy at work in the new IBM Buffalo Innovation Center in Key Towers, helping companies analyze vast amounts of data so they can spot potential problems or customer buying trends early on. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $50 million
  • The project: The state built a biomedical research center for drug discovery firm Albany Molecular Research Inc., which moved into the seventh floor of the Conventus Building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus last summer. It has announced partnerships with PerkinElmer and HarkerBIO, and the center was picked last year to take part in an expansion of a federal program intended to produce new cancer therapies. The companies involved with the center have pledged to hire 250 workers as part of the $250 million overall project, with AMRI accounting for 75 on its own.
  • Completion date: 2015

Genomic research partnership

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $50 million
  • The project: The goal is to create a partnership between the University at Buffalo and the New York Genome Center in Manhattan to develop new ways to treat, prevent and manage serious diseases based on genomic medical research. The initiative will tap into UB’s high-performance computing capabilities, along with research efforts underway on the Medical Campus. The goal is to create a new industry for genomics in the Buffalo Niagara region that carves a foothold in what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has described as the next frontier of modern medicine.
    The project, first announced in 2014, has been slow to get underway as Computer Task Group, a Buffalo information technology company that had been expected to be a key contributor to the project, has revamped its business and reduced its focus on health care.
    About $47.5 million of the $50 million earmarked for Buffalo would pay for an expansion of the UB supercomputer, as well as for lab equipment and other services.
  • Completion date: Unknown

Seungkook Jun, right, an engineer, and Michael Ulbrich, president, left, watch a robot at work at Buffalo Manufacturing Works. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Buffalo Manufacturing Works

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $45 million
  • The project: The center is aimed at helping local manufacturers develop innovative products that they might not otherwise have the resources to do on their own. The center includes equipment that allows companies to conduct trials involving 3-D printing and robotics. It also offers resources and facilities that small- to mid-sized companies need – but often can’t afford – to develop new products and other innovations.
    The center now has a staff of 16 people and has been involved with more than 50 local companies since it opened. It has started work on 35 projects with local manufacturers.
  • Completion date: Opened in April 2015.

43North business plan challenge

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $30 million over five years
  • The project: The business plan competition is one of the most established of the Buffalo Billion programs. Now entering its fourth year, 43North has staged three of its annual business plan contests aimed at spurring innovation and entrepreneurship in the Buffalo Niagara region by seeking the most-promising ideas for new businesses. 43North revamped its prize structure last year, with the winners receiving awards ranging from $500,000 to
    $1 million to start their companies in Buffalo Niagara and locate a significant portion of operations here for at least one year.
  • Completion date: Contest is in its fourth year.

Workforce training and development

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $50 million
  • The project: Create a hub for workforce development and other activity on the East Side. Project includes a $20 million workforce training center on Northland Avenue, aimed at building a cadre of workers with skills that are in demand by local manufacturers and other employers. The training center is part of a larger $50 million light industrial economic development zone.
    The state in December picked a consortium of four local nonprofit agencies to run the new workforce training center. The training center will initially focus on the electric utility industry and advanced manufacturing.
  • Completion date: 2018 and beyond

Niagara Falls tourism

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: More than $31.5 million
  • The project: To make Niagara Falls a more attractive tourist stop, the state is backing several projects for downtown Niagara Falls to help make it more inviting. That includes negotiations with Uniland Development Co. on a so-called “Wonder Falls Resort” plan to redevelop part of the former Rainbow Centre mall. The state also has removed a roughly one-mile stretch of the Niagara Scenic Parkway (formerly the Robert Moses Parkway) along the upper rapids of the Niagara River, and plans to remove a section north of the falls. The state wants to add scenic overlooks along the gorge and create recreational trails in the newly restored strip of land. The state also used up to $5 million in Buffalo Billion funding in its move to buy the Hotel Niagara building for future redevelopment.
  • Completion date: Ongoing

Niagara Falls shows off its spectacular winter beauty. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Daemen College/Empire Visual Effects

  • Buffalo Billion commitment: $4.5 million
  • The project: Daemen College and Empire Visual Effects are trying to create a visual effects industry in Buffalo in an attempt to gain a foothold in an industry that has the potential to grow. The program has struggled to attract students, and only a handful of jobs have been created at Empire Visual Effects so far. Daemen, which put the program temporarily on hold a year ago, has revamped the program and moved it from the Tri-Main Building in Buffalo to the college’s Amherst campus.
  • Completion date: Ongoing

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