by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
A joint state-county-local effort aimed at spurring economic development passed a major milestone Thursday when New York state economic development officials deemed more than 200 acres of prime development property north of the Niagara Falls International Airport "shovel-ready."
Empire State Development and the Niagara County Center for Economic Development announced that the Niagara Airport Commercial Park in the Town of Niagara has been designated shovel-ready through New York State's Shovel Ready Certification Program. The 216-acre site, located directly adjacent to Niagara Falls International Airport, is now pre-qualified for future development as a home of high-technology manufacturing businesses and/or computer data management centers.
By accomplishing shovel-ready certification for this site in Niagara County, the potential to attract developers and/or business interest is increased substantially, and the time to complete any project is significantly reduced.
"We congratulate the Niagara County Center for Economic Development for achieving shovel-ready certification on this strategic piece of property," said Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt. "The program, under Gov. (Andrew M.) Cuomo's leadership continues to be a key tool to help local communities attract substantial private-sector investment and create jobs. By pre-permitting this site, the county will now have a competitive edge in attracting new business, which, in turn, will promote future growth in Niagara County."
Also on-hand Thursday were state leaders who had been closely monitoring the site's progress since late 2006, when county economic development officials made the decision to pursue a grant offered by National Grid to develop the site.
"Providing shovel-ready sites in Niagara County goes a long way in attracting businesses and developers to this area," said State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane. "We have seen how the Niagara Falls Airport has positively impacted this area, and to join that success with the adjacent shovel-ready site will once again provide the county with a competitive edge. I applaud the Niagara County Center for Economic Development for achieving shovel-ready certification."
"This is another example of the Niagara Falls International Airport's potential to spur economic development in Niagara County," said Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston. "I have every confidence that the Niagara County Department of Economic Development will successfully fulfill the potential of this property."
Niagara County officials shared that outlook.
"This is a great opportunity for Niagara County and for Western New York as a whole," Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said. "We consider 'shovel-ready' an important tool for economic development, and at 216 acres, this site is a marvelous development opportunity for businesses that want to invest in our region. That it is almost immediately adjacent to our international airport makes it doubly attractive. We're really grateful to Senator Maziarz, ESD Regional President Sam Hoyt, Assemblyman Ceretto, and Governor Cuomo for their work advancing initiatives like 'shovel-ready.' And we're certainly proud of the work of our Center for Economic Development staff and our partners in the town of Niagara."
As part of ESD's Shovel Ready Certification Program, sites are designated for use under one of three possible development profiles (multi-business and technology park; high technology manufacturing; or warehouse/distribution/logistics center) and evaluated for that use by representatives of ESD, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, state Department of Transportation, state Historic Preservation Office, state Department of Agriculture & Markets, and the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers.
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. Large and highly visible signs are provided by New York's Thruway Authority to help promote the availability of a site.
The 216-acre parcel is owned by SGL Equities. SGL also provided financial support for the effort to secure shovel-ready certification.
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. The county economic development agency believes that shovel ready sites are an effective tool for developing sustainable economic growth in their community. This thinking helped Niagara County attract a large Yahoo! communications center to another shovel ready site in the county, and has already generated interest by other prospects.
Representatives of several non-government entities that had worked to develop the Niagara Airport Commercial Park were also in attendance this morning.
"We were extremely pleased to work so closely with Niagara County, National Grid and all of our partners to secure shovel-ready designation for the Niagara Airport Commercial Park, and we look forward to aggressively marketing this site," said Buffalo Niagara Enterprise President and CEO Thomas A. Kucharski. "While attracting advanced and high technology manufacturing companies continues to show promise for our region, we will promote the Niagara Airport Commercial Park to opportunities in all of our targeted industries that place high value on prime location, market access and availability of skilled and affordable workforce."
National Grid provided a $39,500 grant from its strategic economic development outreach program to Buffalo Niagara Enterprise on behalf of SGL Equities, 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.
"We view the Niagara Falls airport area as a key development opportunity for the region, and are pleased to be able to support the effort to achieve shovel ready status," said Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid. "In our experience, the concept of 'shovel ready' can go a long way toward the promotion and development of any site."
The site is located on the south side of Lockport Road between Haseley Drive and Tuscarora Road in the Town of Niagara. For more information on the site, contact Andrea Klyczek, director of marketing for the Niagara County Industrial Agency, at 716-278-8750. For more information on New York State's Shovel Ready program, visit: http://www.esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/Data/BuildNow/.
Empire State Development is New York's chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the state and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of "I Love NY," the state's iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.