BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A brownfield site where a steel plant once stood will be transformed into a high-tech manufacturing complex focused on clean energy that will initially house two California companies and employ 850 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The state will invest $225 million in the creation of what officials called the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend.
The sum will fund infrastructure at the 90-acre site, including water, sewer and roads, construction of six facilities and the purchase of equipment. It is the largest installment yet from the governor's 2012 pledge to invest $1 billion in state funding in the economy of upstate New York's largest city.
"We are building a state-of-the-art campus to house high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies that will create hundreds of jobs and leverage over a billion dollars in private investment for western New York," Cuomo said during a news conference in Buffalo.
Officials hope the planned relocation of some operations by Soraa, a Fremont, Calif.-based LED lighting manufacturer, and solar power company Silevo, also headquartered in Fremont, will help attract additional companies to the campus. Soraa and Silevo, which operates a manufacturing plant in China, will invest a total of $1.5 billion in the Buffalo project.
Neither company will directly receive state funding but they will have access to facilities and equipment owned by the State University of New York Research Foundation.
"This is real. This is like the Yankees coming to Buffalo. This is like Buffalo winning the Super Bowl," said Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive of the State University of New York College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, which will work with the companies.
"With the new facility, our LED lighting capabilities will be refined and expanded, product innovation will accelerate and light quality and functionality will continue to improve," said Tom Caulfield, president and chief operating officer of Soraa. The company will relocate its research and development and manufacturing operations to Buffalo and create 375 jobs.
The campus will be located on the city-owned site of the former Republic Steel mill, which operated along the Buffalo River in South Buffalo until the early 1980s. Mayor Byron Brown oversaw the 2008 purchase of a total of 185 acres at the site for $4.6 million with the goal of attracting new development.
"It is a fully remediated brownfield site that once produced steel for America and now it will be an area that produces green technology not only for this nation but globally," Brown said in an interview.
"I can't think of any better way to turn around our economy than repurposing the sites of our past," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the son of a steelworker. "We went from one of the dirtiest industries in the world to one of the cleanest industries in the world."