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By John Darby

The Brownfield Cleanup Program is an example of one state initiative that provides an efficient and cost-effective economic development tool that benefits all stakeholders: state taxpayers, local and state governments, growing businesses, upstate communities, prospective job seekers, urban planners and environmentalists. Any program that benefits and is supported by this diverse group of New Yorkers is one worth our strong collective support as well.

But due to the perceived abuse of the program by some downstate developers to support high-profile projects (ones that likely would have proceeded even if they were not included in the program), the State Legislature has eliminated this valuable program from this year’s budget. This is a huge mistake that will have significant, lasting consequences on Buffalo’s burgeoning redevelopment efforts.

The program’s purpose is to provide state tax credit incentives to private firms willing to clean up contaminated sites prior to redeveloping these sites for a variety of new uses. Many of the high-profile projects that have been announced for Western New York would not have happened were it not for the cleanup program.

Here are some compelling statistics:

• Total investment leveraged: $7 billion.

• State tax revenue generated: $1.3 billion.

• Permanent jobs created: 36,000, 4,200 of them in Western New York.

• Construction jobs created: 42,000.

• $1 in cleanup program credits generates $9.64 in total investment.

• The program has generated 34 projects in Western New York and leveraged more than $700 million in development here.

• The program favors smart growth, relieving pressure on greenfield development and suburban sprawl.

• It favors reuse of former urban industrial sites that utilize existing infrastructure and transportation systems.

• It supports local workforce development initiatives as well as increasing the economic density in long-ignored areas of our city.

I am a strong supporter of this program because I have seen firsthand how well it works.

My firm, Niagara Transformer, has used this program to assist in the construction of a state-of-the-art transformer manufacturing facility in Buffalo resulting in an ongoing $18 million direct investment in plant and equipment and the creation of 15 new full-time advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.

This program deserves our strong support. Don’t let our elected officials change or kill a rare program that produces success stories in many upstate communities, especially ours.

John F. Darby, of Buffalo, is president of Niagara Transformer Corp.