The state’s funding promises for the RiverBend clean energy hub in South Buffalo and the software development center downtown that will be anchored by IBM Corp. have cleared their final bureaucratic hurdle.
Nearly $200 million in funding – almost a fifth of the funding promised under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative – won final approval Wednesday from a key state board.
The approval by the state Public Authorities Control Board is the final step in providing $192 million in funding for key programs in the Buffalo Billion initiative, ranging from the RiverBend clean energy hub to the software development center that will be anchored by IBM and a center for advanced manufacturing near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The board’s backing, which was expected, came without any comments by the panel’s members.
The funding includes the final remaining funds for that the state has pledged for the RiverBend clean energy and technology hub that is expected to be the home of one of the world’s biggest solar panel factories, operated by SolarCity, the solar energy system installer that is acquiring Silevo, one of two original tenants in the complex.
The $107 million – almost half of the total funding the state has pledged for the project – will cover reimbursement for real estate acquisition, site and infrastructure development, and construction costs for the RiverBend complex, which also is slated to house a factory for Soraa, a California-based manufacturer of LED lighting.
The latest funding comes four months after the state gave formal approval to the first round of RiverBend funding – $118 million that will go toward design and planning costs, as well as machinery and equipment at the complex.
The $2.5 million deal to sell the 88-acre parcel in South Buffalo that will become the RiverBend hub is expected to close within a few days. The site will be owned by the state, which will construct the buildings and purchase the sophisticated equipment that Soraa and Silevo will use, following a strategy that has helped build a thriving semiconductor industry in the Albany area.
Since the mid-June announcement that SolarCity was acquiring Silevo in a deal worth up to $350 million, the state has discussed the scope and design of the project with company executives.
The funding approved Wednesday also includes the $55 million that the state has promised for the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub, a software development center in the KeyCenter that will be anchored by IBM.
The state plans to spend $15 million to purchase a portion of the KeyCenter and build it out for IBM, while the rest of the building would remain in private hands. Another $40 million will go for the purchase of equipment and software that will be used by IBM, and potentially other companies that might be lured to the center.
The board also approved $30 million in funding for the EWI/Advanced Manufacturing Institute in Buffalo, which will help local manufacturers commercialize technologies and make their production more efficient.
The $45 million institute, which will be located in the former Smart Pill building at 847 Main St. in Buffalo for the first few years of its existence, is expected to open in stages, starting with some operations this summer.
The institute is envisioned as a resource center where local manufacturers, especially small to midsize companies, can share resources and work with experts and engineers to develop new products and services that will make them more competitive in the global market.
State officials hope the center, which will provide resources smaller companies likely could not afford on their own, will help local manufacturers push into new markets that will help their businesses grow.