It's been open for less than four months, but the Western New York Workforce Training Center is already expanding.
The light-industrial training facility that opened in September on Buffalo's East Side plans to add more space at its current site to accommodate its two-year electrical program, taught by Erie Community College and Alfred State College.
It currently has about 100 students overall, but officials anticipate more than 360 ultimately, with about 60 in its electrical program.
The center already occupies about 100,000 square feet in the former Niagara Machine & Tool Works factory complex at 683 Northland Ave., with multiple classrooms and training labs for various skills and trades, including for electrical.
The center offers both one- and two-year electrical programs — which it calls freshman and senior — and officials now believe they need more space for another lab. That's because of high interest in the one-year program, and they now expect that many of those students will extend for the two-year program, in addition to those who signed up for the senior training to begin with.
The Buffalo Urban Development Corp. — which owns and manages the entire Northland Beltline Corridor light-industrial campus — is allowing the training center to lease an additional small storage shed that is directly adjacent to the main building. The two buildings are not connected now, but they will be linked by a common corridor as part of the redevelopment work now happening at the site.
The structural steel shed — which will be reclad with a new roof, windows and walls — was originally slated to be marketed for lease to other tenants until the Workforce Training Center approached BUDC.
"That seems to be ideal for what their needs are," said BUDC President Peter Cammarata.
BUDC is leading the $120 million redevelopment of the 35-acre Northland campus, using state and local dollars to demolish or transform aging and abandoned buildings in a bid to create a light-industrial economic hub as part of Gov. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion initiative. The goal is to bring companies, jobs and investment to one of Buffalo's impoverished neighborhoods, while advancing the local manufacturing industry.
The project is anchored by the Workforce Training Center, which just opened in September. The purpose is to train workers from the surrounding neighborhoods and elsewhere in the city so they can take on various advanced manufacturing jobs at new companies. About 90 percent of the students are from the city, with about 60 percent minority and 40 percent women, officials said Tuesday. The average age of the students is 30, although it ranges up to 55.
Additionally, Buffalo Manufacturing Works will relocate to the same building, taking up another 50,000 square feet when its space is renovated. The rest of the space in that building, as well as adjacent properties, are being targeted for other uses or leasing to other companies.
In other action, BUDC also:
- Accepted $165,000 in shared savings from Gilbane Building Co. for the first phase of work at Northland, and reallocated it to cover other unforeseen project expenses.
- Approved another $150,375 in spending for design and construction changes requested by the training center and the two colleges.