Niagara County Economic Development chairman: ‘Shovel-ready has to mean shovel-ready if we want to attract business’
Niagara County Legislator Rich Andres, chairman of the county's Economic Development Committee, on Tuesday said the proposed site for the new warehouse project (of which Amazon is the potential tenant) was deemed shovel-ready by Empire State Development a decade ago and, as such, the project absolutely needs to be approved if the county wants to maintain credibility with national and international site selectors.
“Shovel-ready has to mean shovel-ready if we want to attract business,” Andres said. “We can’t market a site and say it has gone through the approval process, and then start backtracking. No serious site selector would ever give Niagara County a second look again if we do not stand behind the shovel-ready certification.”
According to Andres, more than 10 years ago, the Niagara County Center for Economic Development and its local partners, including the Town of Niagara, submitted a shovel-ready application to ESD for what was then referred to as Airport Commercial Park on Lockport Road. The application was thoroughly vetted by numerous agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and the New York state departments of Environmental Conservation; Agriculture and Markets; and Transportation. Following that rigorous process, which included public hearings, the site was designated a Build-Now NY Shovel Ready Certified Site in August of 2012.
“Communities across New York state had a reputation for too much bureaucratic red tape that took too long to work through, so potential projects went elsewhere,” Andres said. “In response to that, New York state created the shovel-ready designation so communities could do a lot of the leg work upfront on a potential development site. We have marketed the site that way ever since, and it was a main part of the pitch to the developer that wants to build the warehouse.”
Andres said he fully appreciates that there are necessary approval processes that must be worked through, and that people should certainly attend the public meetings to raise whatever issues are important to them.
“We should always make a good-faith effort to mitigate any legitimate issues that are raised, but the old adage that you cannot please everyone is especially true when it comes to large development projects,” Andres said. “I’m proud of our collective efforts to have attracted a potential tenant like Amazon, and the hundreds of millions of investment and a thousand-plus jobs that could come with it. It’s the culmination of a process that began 10 years ago with the shovel-ready designation.”