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NYPA trustees approve economic development measures to create more than 150 jobs in Western New York

by jmaloni


Tue, Oct 21st 2014 04:20 pm

The New York Power Authority board of trustees has approved new allocations of low-cost hydropower to two firms in Western New York and nearly $600,000 in Western New York Power Proceeds awards for three other firms in the region. Together, the hydropower allocations and funding awards will support the creation of more than 150 jobs and more than $60 million in capital investments.

"The Niagara Power Project is the primary economic development engine in the Buffalo-Niagara area," said NYPA chairman John R. Koelmel. "Whether it's through low-cost hydropower to local businesses or proceeds funding awards to a variety of unique enterprises, the power project is supportive of jobs and the people in this region."

"The latest hydropower allocations and funding awards provide opportunities for numerous entities in the region - from established, multimillion-dollar firms to entrepreneurs and start-up companies - to grow their enterprises," said NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones. "The Niagara hydroelectric power plant is the cornerstone for the economic development support that the Power Authority provides the region, and the most recent actions by the NYPA trustees reflect that."

The NYPA trustees approved three hydropower allocations to two firms: Unifrax in Tonawanda, and Kreher's Sunrise Farm in Basom (Genesee County). In addition, the trustees approved funding under the Western New York Power Proceeds initiative to Cobey Inc. in Tonawanda, Higher One Inc. in Buffalo, and the WNY Women's Foundation in Sanborn.

•Unifrax, 3,300 kilowatts allocation: Unifrax, a manufacturer of ceramic fiber insulation products for the automotive industry, operates 28 manufacturing facilities worldwide and is headquartered in Tonawanda.

The firm is undertaking two expansion projects in Tonawanda, totaling more than $51 million, to construct new production facilities and install ovens, compressors and other production equipment and machinery. A longtime NYPA customer, Unifrax employs 378 people at its three facilities in the region. The two expansion projects will create 75 new jobs.

The company also qualified for up to $1.4 million in performance-based Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits from Empire State Development, the state's economic development agency, in return for its proposed investment and job creation commitments and tax exemption incentives from the Erie County Industrial Development Authority.

"There's an increasing demand for Unifrax's high-tech manufactured products and, with New York state's assistance, it will soon be expanding its Tonawanda headquarters and adding new jobs to its existing workforce, which will be a boon to the regional economy," said ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams.

"I am very pleased to see another company in Tonawanda expanding in part because of Power Proceeds money and Excelsior Jobs tax credits - both programs I helped to create," Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said.

•Kreher's Sunrise Farm, 100 kW allocation: Kreher's Sunrise Farm is owned by a third generation of family egg farmers and produces organic eggs. The company currently has six poultry houses in operation and has plans to construct three additional houses, a compost building and a pullet house, along with the installation of new equipment, as part of a $7 million expansion project. Ten new jobs will be created above the firm's current employment of 19.

"Our local companies are expanding and creating jobs, while creating better opportunities for Western New Yorkers," said State Sen. Michael H. Ranzenhofer. "Kreher's Sunrise Farm's $7 million expansion project, along with 10 new jobs, is another sign that a stronger local economy is on the horizon."

Low-cost Niagara hydropower is currently priced at roughly 40 percent less than wholesale market electricity in the Buffalo-Niagara region and is linked to tens of thousands of existing jobs. In addition to new permanent jobs, the capital investments by the companies receiving the latest power awards are expected to support dozens of construction jobs.

In addition to the hydropower allocations, the NYPA trustees approved the latest round of funding awards following recommendations by the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board. The awards are made possible from net earnings obtained from the market sale of unutilized Niagara hydropower and stem from legislation signed into law in 2012 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

•Cobey, $183,950 award: Cobey, a manufacturer of air and gas equipment, is looking to evolve the compressed natural gas industry in New York. The firm is proposing the creation of a compressed natural gas manufacturing, testing and training process in Western New York in partnership with NOCO Energy Corp., which holds a large share of the region's oil and gas industry. The project will create 32 new positions and retain 121 others.

•Higher One, $300,000 award: Higher One, a company that works to streamline many critical college campus business office processes, acquired Campus Labs, of Buffalo, in 2012. Campus Labs, a software developer currently serving more than 650 college and university campuses, was provided a financially beneficial opportunity to move its operation to Connecticut. The award of proceeds funding is part of a comprehensive state incentive package to keep the firm in Buffalo, creating 36 jobs and retaining 70 existing positions. ESD has extended an offer of nearly $1.3 million in Excelsior tax credits as well.

"Hydropower has the ability to create, sustain and attract more business to Western New York," said Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. "Companies have the opportunity to move anywhere in the United States; thankfully our natural resources allow us to offer low-cost hydropower, which provides us with a competitive advantage. Higher One received a $300,000 award through NYPA, creating 36 jobs and retaining 70 positions. I applaud Gov. Cuomo, NYPA and Empire State Development in ensuring that Higher One remains in the Queen City."

•The WNY Women's Foundation, $100,000 award: This funding will support the second and third years of a pilot workforce training program for at-risk single mothers. The program seeks to improve the educational attainment, skills and workforce readiness of single mothers in Western New York.

State Sen. George Maziarz said, "Helping at-risk single mothers learn job skills is a good investment, because it will help them provide for their families and lead productive lives. These women will be an important part of our region's workforce."

Including the latest awards, 27 enterprises have received power proceeds funding for a total of more than $17.2 million since the initial round in 2013. Through the end of September, NYPA has made deposits of nearly $38 million into the Western New York Economic Development Fund.

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