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Higgins discusses changing economic landscape of Western New York

by jmaloni

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Thu, Nov 21st 2013 11:15 pm

RiverBend and Ford investments expected to create hundreds of new jobs

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, who grew up in the shadows of Bethlehem and Republic Steel, welcomed developments at the RiverBend site set to bring new opportunities and jobs that fit the dynamics of today's economy.

In remarks on the House Floor, Higgins said, "This morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in my neighborhood home of South Buffalo to announce a $225 million redevelopment of a former steel-making plant that will bring 850 new jobs to Buffalo.

"This project announcement will transform the 200-acre former Republic Steel site into a new clean energy and research campus that will breathe new life into a formerly contaminated industrial area that is situated along the Buffalo River and has been economically dead for the past 30 years.

"This announcement, along with $75 million in federal and private investments to clean up the Buffalo River and shoreline, is creating a new dynamic economy in Buffalo, an economy marketed by new waterfront development and clean energy manufacturing.

"Energy independence and hundreds of new jobs in the new economy are remaking Buffalo, N.Y., and this project should serve as a national model to grow the economy and for nation building right here at home."

Over the past few years, infrastructure improvements in and around the Buffalo River and the Inner and Outer Harbors that have injected new economic viability at our waterfront including an August announcement of nearly $1 million in federal funds to support Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers' work in the RiverBend area advancing their successful "Rust to Blue" model. The Riverkeeper project supported 50 jobs and improves approximately 2,800 linear feet of shoreline at RiverBend, including the addition of more than 2,000 native plants and trees.

RiverBend is located on a 200-acre site that falls within the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area and is the former home of Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke facilities.

Higgins also applauded news of job and plant growth at the Ford stamping facility in Western New York. "For years we've stressed the need to reclaim what is naturally ours by keeping the clean, cheap hydropower generated in Western New York in this community to support job and economic growth right here in our region," he said. "The close working relationship between management and labor as well as the strong work ethic of WNY employees and the plant's proximity to the international border makes the local plant a choice location for growth. We thank Ford for their longtime commitment to the region."

Earlier this week, the WNY Power Proceeds Allocation Board recommended the New York Power Authority approve $1 million in funding for Ford's $101 million project to upgrade the Hamburg plant.

Higgins has long argued the value of keeping power profits generated at the Niagara plant in Western New York and the state legislation establishing the Power Proceeds Allocation Board is modeled after federal legislation introduced by Higgins in 2009.

In September, Ford announced a $682 million expansion at its assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, which has a close relationship with the Hamburg plant supported by the flow of goods across the border by rail and by truck via the Peace Bridge.

Ford has had a long history in Western New York. The Buffalo stamping plant opened in 1950 on an 88-acre site with 1.2 million square feet of working space. This will mark the eighth major expansion of the local plant, including a $136 million investment in 2011. The Ford stamping plant manufactures metal stampings and welded sub-assemblies for Ford's car and trucks, and currently employs about 600 people.

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