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Buffalo Billion I & II: An update

Here's a guide to the first Buffalo Billion, from the Tesla factory to IBM's Buffalo Innovation Center, and the grass-roots initiatives that are at the core of Round 2:


Buffalo Billion commitment: $750 million

The project: The first solar panels are rolling out of the Tesla factory, built on a 90-acre former brownfield at the Republic Steel site on the Buffalo River in South Buffalo. But it’s Panasonic – and not Tesla – that’s making them.

Tesla confirms solar roof tile production has already begun in Buffalo

Panasonic, which signed a deal with Tesla in December 2016 to invest more than $250 million in the Buffalo factory, started making panels in October and plans to expand its production to include the solar cells that go into those panels beginning in February.

Panasonic’s workforce topped 300 by the end of the year, with plans to hire dozens more by spring.

Tesla, which will operate the factory, plans to make its innovative solar roofing panels at the plant. Tesla expects the roofing panels to be a big part of the Buffalo factory’s production, but the ramp up of the new product is expected to be gradual. The company overall has pledged to create 1,460 jobs at the factory and other company operations in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Completion date: Full production in 2019.

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 center now has more than 185 workers and provides technical services and support to state agencies from the hub.

IBM adding 20 jobs to innovation hub

Completion date: Facility opened in 2015 in temporary space and moved into its permanent home in Key Towers in late 2016. IBM expects its operations will continue to expand through 2021.

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. on the seventh floor of the Conventus Building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It has announced partnerships with PerkinElmer and HarkerBIO. 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.

AMRI was acquired in August by buyout firms Carlyle Group LP and GTCR LLC for about $922 million.

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

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 would move to the Northland Avenue workforce development complex as part of a $35 million expansion under the Buffalo Billion II.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works becomes force for innovation

Completion date: Opened in April 2015.

43North business plan challenge

Buffalo Billion commitment: $45 million over nine years

The project: The business plan competition is one of the most established of the Buffalo Billion programs. 43North runs an annual business plan contest aimed at spurring innovation and entrepreneurship in the Buffalo Niagara region by seeking the most promising ideas for new businesses. Winners receive 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. Executive Director John Gavigan has said he plans to leave to return to the private sector. The Buffalo Billion II included $25 million to fund the contest for five additional years.

More 43North winners plan to stick around

Completion date: Competition is in its fifth year.

Workforce training and development

Buffalo Billion commitment: $60 million

The project: Create a hub for workforce development and other activity on the East Side. Project includes a $20 million workforce training center, set to open this fall 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.

Buffalo Billion II includes a $10 million Workforce Development Fund to study worker training needs and finance initiatives to meet those needs.

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 1-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. Buffalo Billion II includes $24.5 million to purchase underused or vacant property within a block of Niagara Falls State Park to make it available to new owners with plans for development and funding for improvements along the Niagara Gorge.

Completion date: Ongoing

Buffalo Billion II

The project: Build on the foundation laid out by the first Buffalo Billion, while also spreading the economic development plan’s focus into smaller initiatives intended to build on the projects in the first phase and branch out into new neighborhoods and communities that were not part of the first part. They include:

DL&W Terminal: $20 million to extend Metro Rail to the terminal and redevelop the building and surroundings. Project also would require about $20 million in federal funding.

Extend Metro Rail to Amherst: $5 million for preliminary studies on an extension, which could cost upward of $1.2 billion.

• Buffalo Innovation Center: $40 million to create a facility with incubator and wet lab space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to support fledgling companies and address a shortage of incubator space within the region. Also includes funding for the Buffalo Innovation Fund.

• Visitor Welcome Center: $20 million to create a welcome center on Grand Island to provide information about local attractions and products.

Completion date: Ongoing

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