OLEAN – Leaders from Cattaraugus County’s business and political worlds converged at Jamestown Community College’s Olean campus Monday night for an invitation-only round table to try to identify solutions to bring new job-creating ventures into the county.
Some of the ideas that were generated by those in attendance, as well as suggested in advance by members of Olean city government, included projects such as a plan to make the North Union Street district of the city more walkable and friendly.
“This has been a wide view,” Olean Mayor Linda Witte said. “As a community, how do we attract more people? Engineers, more high-paying jobs?
Witte and her husband have a foundation in the health care field, working in the Southern Tier. They now help to recruit new physicians to area medical facilities.
“One of the first questions is always, ‘What is there to do in Olean?’ ” she said.
The plan to beautify North Union Street, called Walkable Olean, is designed to give the wide commercial strip more of a welcoming, warm feel, Witte said.
“When you drive down Route 16 and get to Olean, you see this wide street,” she continued. “We often joke that you could land a plane. It’s a wide street with all that concrete. It’s not welcoming.”
The idea garnered enough support to be the top project of the night.
Also discussed was a way to entice specific manufacturing companies to Olean.
Lucas Brewer, assistant chief engineer and manager of real property for the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, said the area is perfectly situated for businesses looking for rail access, specifically short-line rail-front access for their business.
“[Regions] need to be actively seeking new manufacturers to come into the area to take advantage of what the railroad can offer,” he said.
Dan Egan, vice president for marketing and sales for the railroad, agreed that an active search is needed in order to attract new businesses.
Speaking of a brownfield site adjacent to Interstate 86, as well as the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, Egan said the area would be best served by seeking tenants that have warehousing and distribution channels to service.
Still other ideas included better high-speed broadband infrastructure, manufacturing and agricultural incubators, completion of Route 219 projects, and development of Bonaventure Square, a development across Route 416 from St. Bonaventure University, and the former home of The Castle Restaurant and Hotel. The developer has yet to break ground for the project after site preparation had been done in 2009.
With main project ideas identified by the group, Kenneth Adams, president, chief executive and commissioner of Empire State Development, said he and Howard Zemsky, co-chairman of the Regional Economic Development Corp., would take the information back and, with the rest of their teams, figure out ways to proceed and present the findings at a second session with all interested stakeholders.