Progress report and priority projects maximize region's growth potential and strategic goals
The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has approved its 2014 progress report and endorsed the council's list of priority projects for round four of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council process. The progress report, including the list of priority projects for the five-county region composed of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara, was submitted to New York ahead of the Aug. 15 deadline.
"I am very pleased to note that, throughout the year, Western New York and our council have continued to build upon the significant progress in implementing core and sector strategies," said Satish Tripathi, WNYREDC co-chair and University at Buffalo president. "It is clearly evident that Western New York truly is moving the needle on all of our economic growth indicators. Going forward with round four of the Regional Council initiative, we anticipate that the state will recognize and celebrate the transformative work that is occurring across our region."
"Things are changing here," said Howard Zemsky, WNYREDC co-chair and Larkin Development Group managing partner. "The new Western New York combines strategic planning and regional priorities with state resources and programs to encourage investment, create jobs and leverage private sector support and resources. All of this has been made possible by the leadership and direction from Gov. Andrew Cuomo."
The Western New York region's 2011 strategic plan, "A Strategy for Prosperity," leverages the region's advantages in key industry sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, binational logistics, energy, health and life sciences, higher education, professional services and tourism. The plan focuses on strategies that promote smart growth, are oriented to young adults, builds upon regional strengths, have a regional impact, and improve the region's image.
For round four, the WNYREDC is once again focusing on the implementation of the region's strategic plan and identifying significant economic development projects to invest in. Cuomo has directed up to $750 million in state resources to be made available in 2014 to support the economic development priorities of all 10 regions and spur job creation across the state, including $220 million in competitive funds from Empire State Development.
The public can view the WNYREDC's 2014 progress report at http://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/themes/nyopenrc/rc-files/westernny/WNYREDC-2014PR.pdf.
The 2014 progress report tracks the progress of the 237 projects that were awarded funding in the first, second and third rounds of the consolidated funding application process, and details how the Western New York region can continue to measure progress. In the first three rounds of the regional council initiative, the Western New York region was awarded $214.9 million in state support for its projects across the region. Of the 237 projects from the first three round of CFAs, 87 percent are completed or moving forward.
Throughout the year, WNYREDC also reviews and recommends the allocation of New York Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits to support the growth of manufacturing and other target industries in the region. In just the past year, WNYREDC recommended $24 million in Excelsior awards for 24 different companies that are anticipated to leverage $181 million in private sector investment and lead to the retention/creation of more than 5,200 jobs. The WNYREDC utilizes CFA awards to advance its plan around more community development initiatives, in particular investments that support revitalization in urban/village centers, entrepreneur development, tourism and workforce development projects.
This year's council recommended priority projects focus on building on the region's assets to invest in the future. The following 18 projects were endorsed by the council and submitted to the state as regional priorities for the fourth round of the regional council initiative's competitive grant funding process:
Implement Smart Growth
•NFTA Light Rail Vehicle MidLife Rebuild, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, will rebuild NFTA's light rail vehicles and extend the useful life of the vehicles for another 20 years, improving the safety, reliability, frequency and efficiency for the current 20,000 weekly and 6 million annual riders.
•Gates Circle Redevelopment Project, Gates Circle Holding LLC, will redevelop a former hospital complex that was vacant for nearly two years in an existing neighborhood. It will enhance the quality of life by creating linkages to transportation, increase green space, employ LEED design guidelines and expand the types of services available to a neighborhood currently underserved.
•North Chautauqua County Regional Water Supply System, Chautauqua County, will provide reliable, high-quality potable water to nine communities in the county along Lake Erie by consolidating into one regional system.
•Salamanca Fiber Build, Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board, invests in an urban center in Cattaraugus County, enhancing the entire city with technology that is seen as common place in many areas of Western New York and around the world. It will encourage the expansion of existing businesses and attract new business to the city.
•Cars Sharing Main Street 400 Block, City of Buffalo, will reconnect adjoining inner-city neighborhoods and their residents with downtown jobs and economic opportunities.
•Bethlehem Steel Acquisition and Redevelopment, County of Erie, will turn a vacant brownfield into a shovel-ready site, ultimately creating job opportunities in one of the low-income areas of Erie County.
•Scajaquada Creek Paddlesport Launch, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, will address historic contamination issues, reconnect citizens to their waterfront, revitalize urban neighborhoods, increase tourism, create green jobs and provide live-work-play amenities young professionals seek.
Prepare Our Workforce
•Training Center Welding Exhaust Upgrade, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 22, will enhance the organization's ability to train people in industry-required skills.
•Gerard Place Education and Community Center, Gerard Place HDFC, will serve as an education, training and family support hub for Buffalo's East Side.
•Buffalo Urban League Center for Economic Advancement, Buffalo Urban League, will expand capacity for workforce development programs, encourage business development (particularly for MWBE), ensure the long-term stability of a historic building, and further the revitalization of the 500 block of Main Street in the central business district of downtown Buffalo.
Foster a Culture of Entrepreneurship
•Olean Business Incubation Center, Cattaraugus Empire Zone Corp., will create a continuum of services and office configurations to support business development at early maturity, and inspire and support entrepreneurial investment in Olean.
WNY Industry Sector: Tourism
•Flight of Five Restoration, City of Lockport, will improve the most important infrastructure in the City of Lockport and the central point of all of the city's original land use and development.
•Buffalo Museum of Science Re-opening of Observatory, Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, will improve the quality of the museum's offerings and increase the visitor experience at the museum, leading to greater chances of repeat visits and potentially causing people to extend their stay in the region.
•Explore & More at Canalside, Explore & More Children's Museum, will be a vibrant, exciting, unique, hands-on play experience at Canalside for children and their families as they learn more about Western New York and the world around them
•National Comedy Center, National Comedy Center Inc., will create a comedy center by renovating two historic structures and building a third that will connect all three in the urban core of Jamestown.
WNY Industry Sector: Advanced Manufacturing
•STEDO Manufacturing Loan Fund Program, Southern Tier Enterprise Development Organization, will promote economic development in three counties by making loans to businesses that are involved in job creating and/or retention activities and projects in advanced manufacturing.
•Biorefinery Commercialization Center, Alfred State College, will expand the educational opportunities offered through Alfred State's occupational studies program with hands-on training with high-tech commercial equipment that is sued in the biotechnology industry.
WNY Industry Sector: Health/Life Sciences
•Bridges to Sustainable Commuting, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, will consist of two above-ground pedestrian bridges connecting the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Conventus Medical Office Building and the UB Research Institute on Addictions.
The council has also identified a number of other priority projects that have applied for funding from various state agencies that it believes will advance business growth and development across Western New York's strategic industries.
For more information on the regional councils, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.