152-acre site already has cleared permitting process
Story and photos by Christian Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Top leaders from Western New York were on-hand in Cambria Thursday morning to announce that New York state had designated a new high-tech business park in Cambria "shovel-ready" - making the site one of the first in the state to be declared ready for nearly-instant development.
Niagara County and the Empire State Development Corp. officials announced that the approximately 152-acre "greenfield" site on Lockport Road has fulfilled the requirements for New York State Shovel-Ready Certification at the 9 a.m. press conference. Named Cambria Technology Park, it is now pre-qualified to serve as the future home for high-technology manufacturing business and/or computer data management centers.
The pre-qualification means businesses will not need to go through lengthy - and risky - permitting processes normally required before a parcel can be developed. In Cambria Technology Park's case, those hurdles have already been cleared, thanks in large part to a $300,000 grant provided by National Grid in 2010.
"It has been a continuing priority for the Niagara County Department of Economic Development to develop an inventory of pre-approved, shovel-ready sites to present to businesses looking for new locations, or to expand existing operations," said Niagara County Legislator Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, who chairs the County Legislature's Economic Development Committee. "We believe that shovel-ready sites are an extremely useful tool for developing sustainable economic growth in our communities. Past successes, such as Yahoo!, stand as solid examples. It is our hope that today's announcement generates similar interest by serious prospects."
Updegrove and Niagara County Commissioner of Economic Development Sam Ferraro worked closely with officials from Empire State Development Corp. over the past two years to get the site to the "shovel-ready" stage.
Tuesday, Updegrove met with Empire State Development officials in Albany and returned to Niagara County with the agency's shovel-ready certification in hand - as well as a large orange road sign prepared by state officials that identifies the site as ready for immediate development.
Empire State Development officials were pleased with Thursday's announcement.
"New York's Build-Now Shovel-Ready Certification Program is an effective program that we are confident will produce results in Cambria," Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said. "By assisting local communities and developers to assess and pre-qualify locations for specific types of development, the state is steadily building an inventory of available sites that are appropriate for development and are ready for use."
Also on hand Thursday were two state leaders who had been closely monitoring the site's progress since late 2009, when county economic development officials made the decision to pursue a grant offered by National Grid to develop the site.
"I'm excited about the new 'shovel-ready' site in Cambria," State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane said. "I applaud the efforts of Empire State Development in partnering with Niagara County and local developers to bring a new technology park and new jobs to this county. The cooperation between the state and county to get shovel-ready certification is a model for other businesses coming to our area."
Assemblyman John D. Ceretto, R-Lewiston, long a proponent of public/private cooperation like that which produced the Cambria Technology Park, concurred, noting that the news follows on the heels of several high-profile grant awards from the $1 billion set aside by New York state for the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
"Today's announcement shows how in Niagara County, state, county and town officials can work together," Ceretto said. "This teamwork, along with the Niagara County IDA and Empire State Development Corporation, is needed and businesses should take note. A development like this shows that Niagara County is a real player for the $1 billion pledged for the Buffalo Niagara Region, and we are working hard to obtain it."
Representatives of several non-government entities that had worked to develop the Cambria site were also in attendance Thursday morning. Updegrove noted that the Niagara County Center for Economic Development had been assisted by the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise throughout the two-year process of pre-certifying the site.
Buffalo Niagara Enterprise President and CEO Thomas Kucharski praised the Cambria announcement as another important step in developing product for his group to market to the outside world.
"The development of shovel-ready sites like the Cambria Technology Park shows Niagara County's vision and commitment to growing the regional economy," he said. "Having helped to bring significant projects like Yahoo! and Greenpac to Niagara County, we know that having quality sites like this to market is critical to attracting such transformational projects to our community."
The development is particularly good news for Cambria, which saw 8.3 percent population growth over the past decade, making it one of the faster growing communities in Western New York. Town Supervisor Wright Ellis, R-Cambria, noted that town officials had been preparing for such growth for a number of years.
"We're very gratified to have this project come to the Town of Cambria," Ellis said. "It validates our 1997 comprehensive plan, which identified that corner of the town for eventual commercial business development. This falls right in with that."
Having an economic development site certified as a "shovel-ready site" means that the local developer has worked proactively with the state to address major permitting issues, prior to a business expressing interest in the location. This advance work creates a site where construction can begin rapidly, once a prospective business decides to develop a facility there. By reducing the time it takes a company to begin construction of a new facility, New York state and its local partners are able to provide valuable savings to the business as well as job opportunities for local residents. Businesses locating at shovel-ready certified sites must still apply for and receive applicable state and federal permits related to their specific activities at the site.
National Grid provided the $300,000 grant from its Strategic Economic Development Outreach program to the Niagara County Center for Economic Development to accomplish the site review and preparation of the application. Information about National Grid's economic development programs can be found at www.shovelready.com.
"As a long-time steward of the communities we serve in Niagara County, National Grid is committed to helping these communities prepare for their future economic development opportunities," said Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid New York. "Having 'shovel-ready' sites available is a key element in any successful outreach effort, especially as New York state and Niagara County look to attract technology driven companies and jobs to this area."
The parcel is located along Lockport Road, west of Campbell Boulevard (state Route 270) and east of Comstock Road. For more information on the site, contact Andrea Klyczek, director of marketing for the Niagara County Industrial Agency, at 716-278-8750.
Empire State Development administers shovel-ready certification. The program is an ongoing component of the Build Now-NY program, which was introduced under Gov. George E. Pataki in 1998 and has been helping local communities grow jobs ever since. With a modest state expenditure, Build Now-NY has helped local communities attract substantial private-sector investment and create thousands of jobs for nearby residents.
The state does not provide funding for shovel-ready applications, but does coordinate the review of each application with all relevant state and federal agencies. Once issues or problems at the site have been identified and addressed, shovel-ready certification can be awarded.
For more information on New York state's shovel-ready program, visit: http://www.esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/Data/BuildNow/.