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These 13 projects get priority in the push for state funds

Advanced manufacturing is a top priority for local development officials as they prepare for the next round of state funding for economic development initiatives.

Their wish list of 13 priority projects identifies initiatives that they believe will lay the groundwork for further investment and create other types of spinoff opportunities across Western New York.

From a new industrial hemp processing facility on the East Side and an expansion at Elma dairy and food product producer Steuben Foods to a food processing plant in Dunkirk and upgrades at several Buffalo Niagara attractions, the projects backed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council are spread across the region and cover a broad swath of the local economy.

“Our local-driven approach to investing state resources are reflected in the region’s economic indicators, the progress of our priority projects and the positive attitudes you encounter walking the streets in our neighborhoods," said Jeffrey Belt, the council's co-chairman. “Western New York continues to make tremendous progress on the implementation of its strategies."

The 13 "priority projects" identified by the council will compete for $10 million to $20 million in state grant money from Empire State Development Corp., along with additional funding through other state-financed programs.

While the wish list identifies how much state grant funding each project could receive if the region wins the biggest amount of state funding available in the annual competition, the exact amount of funding could change, depending on the result of the contest and a further review of each individual project. Each of the projects will be vetted by state officials in Albany – who ultimately will determine how much money each project will receive – if any.

More than three-quarters of the priority projects – 10 out of 13 – are located in Erie County, along with one each in Jamestown, Olean and Dunkirk.

The wish list also includes dozens of other projects that are eligible for funding through the state's various economic development programs, although many will not receive money.

The biggest chunk of sought-after state funding – $4 million – would go to Sound Wellness, a venture that hopes to convert a building in Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood into a $23.9 million lab and processing facility for industrial hemp. The facility, which would employ 29 full-time workers, would process industrial hemp and turn it into dietary supplements and other consumer goods.

Steuben Foods is in line for the second-biggest portion of the funding – $3.1  million – for a project that would expand its processing, blending and milk receiving capabilities at its Elma factory. The company is expected to add 20 jobs as part of the expansion.

Development officials also are backing the Grow Chautauqua initiative by Empire State Brands that would build a processing plant in Dunkirk that would grow, process and package grain products, such as hops, malted barley, wheat and rye, with the aim of creating a low-cost local source of those ingredients for craft brewers and bakeries across New York and the East Coast.

The council also is seeking nearly $1.9 million in state funds for a project by a Buffalo developer, the Krog Group, and the Gebbie Foundation to buy and restore the nine-story Jamestown Furniture Exposition Building. The $9.4 million project would include ground floor retail, offices and 30 market-rate apartments on the top two floors of the downtown building.

The council also is backing projects that would make improvements to Buffalo attractions, including the Buffalo Zoo and the Buffalo History Museum, while also seeking $1 million for a $5 million capital campaign for improvements and repairs at Kleinhans Music Hall.

None of the projects are guaranteed to receive funding. The state's 10 development zones will compete later this year for funding in an annual competition established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011. Half of the regions will split $100 million in grant funding, while the rest will share $50 million. In all, the priority projects, and the others identified by the council, will divide more than $750 million in funding available through Empire State Development and other existing state programs.

Here is the list of the Western New York priority projects.

Project                                                                 Location          Total cost              Funding sought
Sound Wellness                                                      Buffalo                 $23.9 million            $4 million
Steuben Foods expansion                                     Elma                    $15.6 million             $3.1 million
Grow Chautauqua                                                  Dunkirk               $14.7 million             $2.94 million
Furniture Mart                                                       Jamestown          $9.4 million              $1.875 million
Kleinhans Music Hall improvements                Buffalo                 $5 million                  $1 million
Olean Community Theatre                                  Olean                    $980,000                  $680,000
Groundwork Market Garden                               Buffalo                 $3.7 million              $619,910
Buffalo Film Works                                               Buffalo                 $3.5 million              $600,000
Sturgeon Point Marina                                         Evans                   $1.65 million            $323,775
Connected Autonomous Vehicle Enclosure    Amherst                $1.45 million            $290,000
Buffalo History Museum amenities                  Buffalo                  $1.38 million            $276,400
Buffalo Zoo infrastructure                                  Buffalo                   $995,344                  $199,068
Center for Medical Innovation Technology    Amherst                 $575,000                  $115,000

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