Funding would help support the creation and retention of 902 jobs, as well as tourism, life sciences and advanced manufacturing initiatives
The Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board has recommended $2.115 million in funding to seven Western New York enterprises, including $1 million to Ford Motor Company to train its workforce on the next generation of technologies that will allow it to compete as a world-class stamping manufacturer.
"Manufacturing, tourism and life sciences are all represented in the projects recommended today for Power Proceeds funding," said Allocation Board Chairman Anthony J. Colucci III. "Gov. Cuomo has identified these sectors as being crucial for economic growth in Western New York. The board is pleased with the quality and variety of applications we have been receiving, especially because they are resulting in new jobs. We look forward to building on these successes with the approval of funding for future projects.
Ford's proposed $101 million project is a multifaceted program designed to modernize the Buffalo stamping plant. The program will include a tooling launch of the next generation of technologies, including robots for material handling, welding and roll hemming, weld controllers with adaptive welding and other technologies. These new technologies will require extensive training for the workforce, including 100 new jobs, which is what the recommended funding will go toward. The other entities to which the five-member Proceeds Allocation Board recommended awards are Visit Buffalo Niagara, Niagara University. Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation, CNC Technical Solutions Inc.-Reclaim Center, Washington Mills and Lineagen.
In total, the latest projects recommended for funding awards are expected to create and/or retain 902 jobs and result in investments by project applicants exceeding $108 million. The recommendations will be considered by the New York Power Authority board of trustees at its Dec. 17 board meeting.
The latest recommendations for proceeds awards stem from legislation signed into law last year by Cuomo. Known as the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act, the legislation authorizes "net earnings" from the sale of unused hydropower from the NYPA's Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant to be deposited into the Western New York Economic Development Fund to support economic development in Western New York. The fund has accrued approximately $26 million to date. Nearly $13 million has been approved for awards by the NYPA trustees on the basis of earlier recommendations by the Proceeds Allocation Board.
Beyond Ford, the latest projects recommended by the board are discussed below, along with their alignment with regional goals.
Tourism: Visitors contribute more than $2.2 billion to the Western New York regional economy each year. Nearly 12 million people visit Western New York parks each year - including Niagara Falls State Park, the region's leading attraction. Tourism is one of the area's biggest industry sectors, yet it remains an underachievement with average spending at only $50 per day.
Visit Buffalo Niagara
Recommended Award Amount: $250,000
Visit Buffalo Niagara Canadian marketing initiative will facilitate an increase in expenditures by visitors to the Buffalo Niagara region from Ontario, expand tourism-related employment, generate increased labor incomes and make larger contributions to state and local tax collections. A recent market analysis done shows the primary barrier to expanding the nature of visits by Southern Ontarians stems from an image deficit related to lack of knowledge beyond shopping. The potential impact of enhanced tourism spending in the economy can have significant economic impact. If 5 percent of day shoppers are convinced to stay a night and turn a day trip into an overnight stay, the impact would be $9.7 million in new net spending.
Recommended Award Amount: $250,000
Niagara University will establish the Niagara Global Tourism Institute, focused on market research, skills programming and innovative application of digital technologies and "smart growth" principles to regional tourism strategies. Niagara GTI will be a unique, unbiased resource providing stakeholders the information, support for innovation and skills necessary to improve the performance of Western New York as a regional, national and international tourism destination. The Niagara GTI will address the objective of increasing visitor numbers, extending length of stay and generating additional revenues to achieve the United Nations World Tourism Organization's projected growth of 4 percent per annum. In partnership with industry stakeholders, the project will provide research that will inform decision making, develop a trained, professional workforce, and introduce and train the industry in utilization of the most up to-date technologies.
Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation
Recommended Award Amount: $150,000
Forest Lawn recognizes the need for an open, accessible and conveniently located center where professional tour operators and visitors can obtain information on local and regional attractions. The Margaret L. Wendt Archive & Resource Center, opening summer 2014, will serve as a regional visitors center and tour bus terminal for area excursions. Design plans for this center include a fully furnished record repository and management facility providing a means and place to perform genealogy research. Forest Lawn Cemetery's project is based on an increase in public interest in genealogy that is projected to result in a significant number of additional visitors each year. It is well established that one of the region's greatest strengths is the history that has been preserved here. This project will capitalize on that history and create a new reason for tourists to come to the Western New York region.
Health/Life Sciences: The region has invested heavily in both health care and life sciences, especially in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The investment is creating a critical mass of health science service, research and commercialization.
Recommended Award Amount: $250,000
Lineagen has developed biomarkers that are useful in determining chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and multiple sclerosis progression rate. This $5 million project will provide the sales, technical and bioinformatics staff necessary to offer Lineagen's current genetic test to the region and to complete development of new risk-based tests that will improve clinical management for these patients. Immediately upon funding, the company will hire one regional sales manager in the Buffalo/Western New York region to bring the most comprehensive genetic testing service clinically available to patients in the region. Additional staff will be hired to develop a DNA sequencing-based predictive model to serve the same markets. Finally, new products for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and COPD currently in its development pipeline will be addressed using bioinformatics and computer staffing available in the Buffalo area. The project will create eight to 12 jobs.
Advanced Manufacturing: Advanced manufacturing is crucial to the future of the Western New York economy. No U.S. region in decline has ever reversed its fortunes without growth in the advanced manufacturing sector. Western New York has significant strength on which to build in medical devices, precision instruments, advanced materials and energy storage, and other arenas.
Recommended Award Amount: up to $140,000
This project proposes to upgrade an existing high temperature arc furnace in Niagara Falls with new, state-of-the-art electrode controls. In addition, improvements will be made to its material handling system in order to effectively produce a higher purity product currently being imported from its Washington Mills plant in Canada. With the new controls and material handling, the company anticipates an energy savings of 2 to 4 percent (approximately 400 Mkwh-500Mkwh annually), and the ability to make a higher quality finished product. The project will retain 35 jobs and create two positions.
Business Development: Business Development is critical in the region's smaller communities, especially when there is a focus on community beautification through the strategic reuse of older, vacant buildings and job creation.
CNC Technical Solutions Inc. - Reclaim Center
Recommended Award Amount: $75,000
CNCTS will be increasing the size and scope of its current industrial reclaim business and will be moving the existing business to a new location in Medina in order to expand the business scope and volume. This $338,850 project will significantly expand its abilities to purchase and reclaim large-scale industrial hardware and to refurbish and remarket this to the automotive, medical, aerospace and the food industry to name a few. The project will involve an infrastructure investment that will stabilize a blighted area of the neighborhood as an ongoing adaptive reuse example of best use practices for a formerly abandoned church and warehouse facility. The final product from the expansion project will be in-demand, high-end controls hardware, which continues to be used all over the country (not just in the local region). The project will retain two jobs and create an additional three jobs.
The Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board reviewed these and other applications for fund proceeds in accordance with requirements of the act. For example, eligible projects must be located within a 30-mile radius of NYPA's Niagara Power Plant and projects must support the growth of business and lead to the creation or protection of jobs. The board also considers the extent to which an award would be consistent with the strategies and priorities of the area New York regional economic development councils.
Contracts with awardees will include provisions for periodic audits to ensure the funds are utilized for agreed-upon purposes. Some projects are subject to legal requirements that must be satisfied before an award of fund proceeds can be made.
The board is comprised of the following members, appointed by Cuomo: Chairman Colucci, managing attorney of the law firm of Colucci & Gallaher in Buffalo; Deanna Alterio Brennan, president of the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce; Brenda Williams McDuffie, president of the Buffalo Urban League; Dennis W. Elsenbeck, regional executive, National Grid Western Division; and Henry F. Wojtaszek, an attorney with the law firm of Harris Beach in Buffalo.