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New York Power Authority spurs economic development in New York from Cuomo's ReCharge NY program, other initiatives

by jmaloni

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Wed, Feb 11th 2015 10:00 am

More than 18,500 jobs retained or created from NYPA actions in 2014

Lower-cost electricity from the New York Power Authority served as an anchor for hundreds of key businesses and enterprises in New York in 2014, with more than 400,000 jobs and billions of dollars in capital investments directly supported by NYPA's generation and power purchases.

New power allocations under the ReCharge NY Program, a statewide initiative of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as well as actions under other programs administered by NYPA, were linked to the retention or creation of approximately 18,500 jobs.

"We made real and meaningful progress on multiple fronts during 2014 in spurring job commitments and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investments from our low-cost hydropower and other economic power sources," NYPA Chairman John R. Koelmel said. "Time and again, we successfully leveraged our resources under various programs in partnering with businesses as part of the state's significant progress of adding private-sector jobs and lowering unemployment to its lowest level in six years."

The NYPA board of trustees approved ReCharge NY allocations to more than 100 businesses and not-for-profit organizations, bringing to more than 700 the number of employers benefiting from the program, which went into effect in mid-2012. Those enterprises have committed to nearly 394,000 jobs, in return for their power allotments. (Additional information on ReCharge NY can be foundhere.)

With half of the program's power coming from NYPA's low-cost Niagara and St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt hydroelectric projects, ReCharge NY remained a mainstay for economic development, alongside other NYPA power programs. Those include the Expansion Power and Replacement Power programs, for allocations of Niagara hydropower to Buffalo-Niagara region businesses, and the Preservation Power Program, for St. Lawrence-FDR hydropower to North Country businesses.

In 2014, the NYPA trustees made Niagara hydropower awards to 11 Buffalo-Niagara businesses to create 420 jobs and spur $210 million in capital investments in a region where a large percentage of the manufacturing jobs are directly tied to the facility's low-cost power. The firms benefiting include such stalwarts as Moog, GEICO, Goodyear Dunlop, Ford and the 3M Company. New hydropower allocations in 2014 included those to Ingram Micro Inc., Durez Corp., Graphic Controls Acquisition Corp., and Trinity Packaging Corp.

In Northern New York, allocations of St. Lawrence Preservation Power to two businesses - Corning, in Canton, and St. Lawrence Zinc Co., in Gouverneur - were tied to the creation of 140 jobs and more than $55 million in capital investments.

The advantages of NYPA hydropower stem from it being priced at approximately 40 percent less than wholesale market electricity in Northern and Western New York.

"The Power Authority gives the utmost importance to the efficient operation of its power plants and transmission facilities, recognizing the significant role that they play for economic development in the state," NYPA president and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said. "By keeping our costs low, we're able to underpin the competitive operations of hundreds of businesses throughout the state, particularly energy-intensive manufacturers." 

Other economic-development programs by NYPA include the Western New York Power Proceeds initiative, in which the net earnings from unutilized Niagara hydropower fund economic development awards to businesses in the region. In 2014, the NYPA trustees approved more than $8 million in awards in return for commitments by the recipients to retain nearly 1,600 jobs and create more than 150 jobs.

A sign of the further benefits of the proceeds program for Western New York's economy were $5 million in awards announced in October to 11 startup businesses in Buffalo as the culmination of an extensive competition known as 43North, which began with more than 2,600 qualified entrants. The NYPA trustees' approval in May 2013 of $5.4 million in funding made the competition possible.

Late in 2014, the trustees approved $6 million of additional proceeds funding for a second 43North competition, to be held this year, to further build on the momentum for galvanizing business startups in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The funding for the 43North competition was one of the dimensions of proceeds awards by NYPA to some 28 enterprises since 2013.

The Western New York proceeds initiative served as a model for a similar endeavor for Northern New York. In late December, Cuomo signed legislation that will make it possible for the net earnings of a block of up to 20 megawatts of St. Lawrence-FDR power to be used for awards to job-creating businesses in St. Lawrence County. Up to $2 million is expected to result annually and be available to qualified businesses for capital investments and new jobs.

The Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Act was a key element in an agreement between NYPA and the host communities of the St. Lawrence-FDR project, as part of a 10-year review of a settlement agreement for the project's 2003 federal relicensing. Other agreed-to provisions to emerge from the review include up to $5 million in NYPA funding for an economic development study to assist the communities to identify and attract businesses and industries; and the use of temporarily relinquished hydropower to reduce electricity costs for North Country businesses and farms by $10 million a year, for up to three years.

Apart from the agreement with the host communities, more immediate benefits resulted from the creation in August of the North Country Economic Development Fund to provide low-cost loans to expanding businesses in the region. The $10 million fund, which resulted from a long-term power contract between NYPA and Alcoa, led to loans totaling $725,000 to two businesses, which agreed to add 84 jobs, retain 110 existing positions and undertake capital investments of about $6 million.

Low-cost NYPA electricity, in multiple ways, had a significant impact on economic development throughout New York in 2014. Important progress was made under key initiatives that are cornerstones of the efforts by the Cuomo administration for growing the state's economy. They're expected to be further advanced in 2015.

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