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Cuomo announces new workforce development center on Buffalo's East Side

Press release

Wed, Jul 15th 2015 06:10 pm

New Workforce Training Center will anchor $44 million Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor Business Park

Area residents to be trained for advanced manufacturing and electric utility job opportunities

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans Wednesday for the Western New York Workforce Development Center, a new hub that will focus primarily on training for careers in the advanced manufacturing and energy sectors. To be located on Buffalo's East Side, the center will inhabit a 100,000-square-foot building at 683 Northland Ave., which has sat vacant for 25 years.

"Here in Buffalo, we are creating so many jobs that we need to make sure we have the people to fill them. That's why the new Workforce Development Center is so important - workers need to know and have the skillset to fill these new positions," Cuomo said. "We want the entire region and society to excel together - and that includes the East Side. In the 'New Buffalo,' there is opportunity for everyone, everywhere, and today's announcement is a monument to that vision."

As a signature initiative of the "Buffalo Billion" and a centerpiece of the New York Power Authority's workforce planning strategic initiative, the Workforce Development Center will help ensure a robust and diversified workforce of highly trained, skilled workers ready to meet the challenges of the 21st-century electric utility and advanced manufacturing industries. This initiative creates two co-located training facilities: an Advanced Manufacturing Training Center and a Utility of the Future & Clean Energy Training Center.

The Western New York Workforce Development Center is expected to be funded with up to $29 million from the "Buffalo Billion." Cuomo also has requested the New York Power Authority board of trustees affirm an investment of up to $15 million for the energy-training component of the center, as approved in NYPA's fiscal 2015 budget and four-year financial operating plan.

This new venture on Buffalo's East Side is just one part of an unprecedented amount of state investment spearheaded by the governor connecting the neighborhood to the unparalleled growth experienced by the larger Western New York region over the past four years. To view a partial list of projects and details being funded by the state on the East Side, click here.

NYPA, Empire State Development, the New York State Research and Development Authority, the New York State Electric and Gas Corp., National Grid and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding that describes their roles and support for this unique educational and training initiative.

This follows the governor's announcement in September that $6.7 million, as part of the "Buffalo Billion," would go toward the acquisition and site planning of 50 acres of vacant or underutilized industrial land in the East Side's Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor. ESD, the state's economic development agency, granted Buffalo Urban Development Corp. - the City of Buffalo's not-for-profit land reclamation and development agency - the funds to purchase the land and redevelop the properties.

Business planning for the Workforce Development Center is also underway, including design of the training programs, program and site administration, feasibility and financial sustainability. Buffalo Urban Development Corp. hired a consultant team lead by LiRo Engineers to formulate a redevelopment plan for the recently acquired properties. LiRo is tasked with analyzing documentation, preparing detailed conditions analysis of each property, developing a real estate marketing strategy, coordinating State Environmental Quality Review Act compliance and completing the redevelopment plan. LiRo, working with Buffalo-based Mustard Seed Consulting, has also started community outreach efforts for the master planning of the Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor, and will host public forums and meetings with community leaders in the coming weeks and months. The improvements to the corridor will also include streetscape and infrastructure improvements by the City of Buffalo.

The Advanced Manufacturing Training Center will address the needs of manufacturers to fill employment skills gaps among the region's workforce. Manufacturing is the third-largest industry sector in the region, employing more than 50,000 people and generating $6.3 billion in gross regional product. Industry estimates indicate that, between now and 2020, due to retirements and growth, there will be nearly 17,000 job vacancies in Buffalo/Niagara's manufacturing sector. However, the region's current workforce does not have the employment skills to meet these demands.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The redevelopment of the site supports the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council's smart growth strategy and will provide many residents with employment opportunities within walking distance of their homes."

NYPA's activities at the Utility of the Future & Clean Energy Training Center will focus on the need for innovative training, recruiting and retention strategies, as 30 percent of current electric utility workers become eligible for retirement in the next five to 10 years. It creates an opportunity for current and new employees to acquire the necessary skills of the evolving energy industry as it transitions to the grid of the future.

NYPA Chairman John Koelmel said, "When the center is fully operational, Western New York will reap the dividends. We will be much better positioned to sustainably meet the need for skilled jobs at the wide range of utility and other companies in the region. In addition, the expanded talent pool will be an undeniable attraction to other companies looking to locate here."

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "The center will be an essential component of the governor's efforts to create a grid that will meet the long-term electricity needs of New York consumers and businesses. The only way New York state can secure its energy future is by having a highly motivated and skilled utility workforce. We need a new generation of utility workers and engineers in the pipeline while we also increase the skill sets of our current employees."

Workforce development has become increasingly important with the implementation of the governor's "Reforming the Energy Vision" initiative, which aims to fundamentally transform the way electricity is distributed and used in New York. The center will enable NYPA and eventually other utilities to prepare for the rapid integration of innovative technology into existing operations, and serve as a source of highly skilled talent for entry-level positions.

This initiative will be designed to accommodate the region's growing renewable energy industry. Buffalo will soon be home to the world's largest solar panel production plant, SolarCity - to be located at the RiverBend site in South Buffalo - which will bring many new energy-related jobs to the region.
The Northland Avenue Belt Line Corridor, an industrial/commercial/residential neighborhood, is one of the most extensive industrial areas in terms of size and density on Buffalo's East Side. It was initially developed as a center for manufacturing due to the confluence of several major rail corridors, including the New York Central Beltline. For nearly 100 years, 683 Northland was the home of Niagara Machine & Tool Works (later Clearing Niagara). Niagara Machine was founded by George J. Munschauer in 1879 and became one of the largest companies of its type in the Northeast. The company designed and built stamping presses and press brakes for sheet metal, and its equipment was shipped to automobile and appliance manufacturers worldwide.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Through this much-needed investment on Buffalo's East Side, we are breathing new life into a vacant building and bringing new opportunities to neighborhoods that have been neglected for far too long. The creation of this $44 million skilled training facility will equip people with the tools, knowledge and experience needed to succeed in the manufacturing and electric utility industries, and further demonstrates that Gov. Cuomo is not only committed to the growth of the City of Buffalo, but to the growth of the people who call it home."

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "The 'Buffalo Billion' development on the east side of the city continues today through strategic investment. The Western New York Workforce Development Center will facilitate training for career opportunities in advanced manufacturing and the growing energy sector. As companies grow and expand, we need to ensure that a skilled workforce is available. The 200,000-square-foot facility highlights the public sector commitment to meeting the private sector workforce needs. I applaud Gov. Cuomo for his continued strategic investment throughout Buffalo and Western New York."

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "As economic growth and opportunity increases in Buffalo, we must continue to focus on ways to connect city residents to the jobs of the future, and the new workforce development center on Buffalo's East Side will do just that. I thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his continued commitment to Buffalo and our shared goal of creating a diversified and skilled workforce that's ready to meet the growing needs of advanced manufacturing and energy sector industries in our city."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "I thank Gov. Cuomo for again demonstrating his commitment to Buffalo and Erie County, and for his vision in creating the Workforce Training Center. This project will train local workers for good careers and will provide a boost to the East Side at the same time. Gov. Cuomo understands that all communities should be a part of the economic renaissance happening here, and this project is a good example of the new attitude in Erie County."

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