on November 21, 2013 - 11:40 AM
, updated November 21, 2013 at 1:47 PM
In the largest down payment on his Buffalo billion-dollar commitment, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this morning announced the creation of a clean-energy research campus on 90 acres of land along the Buffalo River that will include two tenants investing $750 million apiece to create a total of 850 jobs. The initiative will be dubbed Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub @ RiverBend.
“Today we come full circle,” Cuomo said, referring to the old use of the site, Republic Steel, now to be reused for clean energy. ““Buffalo’s future is the future of the state of New York.”
The companies were indentified as Soraa and Silevo. In discussions after Cuomo’s speech concluded, officials said the state will invest $225 million in the project, leveraging $1.5 billion investment from the two companies.
Construction of the 275,000 square foot facilities for the two companies is expected to be finished in 18 months; officials said it would take up to one year after that to reach the promised employment of 850 jobs, with 375 jobs at Soraa and 475 at Silevo. The state would purchase the equipment for the two companies, and the facilities and equipment will be owned by the state.
Cuomo received a standing ovation as he walked on stage before a standing-room only crowd at the Adam’s Mark Hotel this morning to make the announcement.
The governor fleshed out a proposal, first made last month, to make this region a hub for high-tech research, manufacturing and work force training.
“This is going to reap benefits for the people of the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “Yes, Buffalo has a proud history, but I’m more excited about its future,” he concluded, receiving another standing ovation.
The RiverBend project calls for $225 million in state money to build the first two of six buildings on a brownfield site that Cuomo administration officials believe will become the center of some of the nation’s leading clean and green energy research.
The RiverBend project will be run by the State University of New York’s Research Foundation, which is headquartered in Albany, and has the help from top officials at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the State University of New York’s newest college, which has become a major source of jobs in Albany with its focus the past two decades on nanoscience research.
Alain Kaloyeros, head of SUNY’s nanoscale college, speaking at the Adam’s Mark today said: “Folks, this is real. This is like the Yankees coming to Buffalo. This is like the Bills winning the Super Bowl.”
The first two tenants in the first of six planned buildings are being lured, like those in Albany to the nanoscale facility, with the promise that the state will provide the space and expensive equipment that they could not otherwise afford on their own to do cutting-edge research in the field of clean energy.
Officials say the model works because companies, once they locate, find it difficult to leave because they cannot replicate a facility with so much expensive equipment upon which research is conducted. In Albany, the nanoscale center has attracted a who’s who of computer chip makers and other high-tech firms from around the world.
Cuomo vowed in 2012 to pump in an extra $1 billion in state money over several years to try to provide an economic rebirth in Buffalo, which he said has been ignored for too long by the state.
“The Buffalo Billion is intended to be transformative,” said Howard Zemsky, co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council in opening remarks before Cuomo spoke. “We’re the capital of clean energy in New York State.”
The plan for the high-tech hub includes a SORAA fabrication facility with 375 jobs, a company official said. “We’re coming to Buffalo today because of the progressive incentive program of Governor Cuomo allows us to compete globally.”
County Executive Mark Poloncarz: “I can’t think of a better way to turn around the economy than to repurpose the sites of our past.”
The state in October began seeking bids from developers to work on the high-tech campus, saying it was seeking proposals to create “state-of-the-art facilities and cutting edge infrastructure” at an unknown site in this area.
Several major developers in this region have expressed interest in the contract, and they have until Dec. 10 to respond.
The project will be constructed on the former Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke site.
The previously contaminated industrial property, which is now vacant, takes up more than 200 acres in total, bounded by the Buffalo River to the north, Tifft Street to the south and a set of railroad tracks and the Tifft Nature Preserve to the west.
Mayor Byron W. Brown this morning talked about the city’s role in preparing the property for redevelopment. The city in 2008 bought the former Republic Steel site for $4.6 million, readying the foundation to create a shovel-ready site ripe for a developer’s investment.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has led a federally funded habitat restoration of the property. The Buffalo Urban Redevelopment Corp. is the lead redevelopment agent and has proposed a mix of commercial, residential and retail uses for the site.
Among those in the crowd were Erie Community College President and former Congressman Jack Quinn and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra.
Also today, the governor visited the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn, the site of a planned $150 million investment by the automaker that is tied to expanded production across the border and will create 350 new jobs. Cuomo praised the workers at the facility for their efficiency, and noted that the state was putting $7 million toward the project. “This investment in the plant will make sure that the 680 jobs we have in the plant will still be here... and 350 new jobs will be created,” Cuomo said.
That project is in line to receive $1 million from the New York Power Authority.