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Priority status given to two SCA projects for state funding

SPRINGVILLE — The New York state-appointed Western New York Regional Economic Development Council has assigned priority status to 24 economic development projects statewide, including the Springville Center for the Arts’ 5 East Main St. rehabilitation endeavor and its 37 North Buffalo St. improvements. These projects will be submitted to New York state for potential funding, in conjunction with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative.

Cuomo tasked the council with recommending an “investment strategy that will leverage the state’s $1 billion pledge and gain a 5-to-1 commitment from the private sector, resulting in more than $6 billion in total economic development impact,” according to a statement from the WNYREDC.

The council’s stated goal is to identify the “scope of opportunities” for the $1 billion pledged to Buffalo by the state.

An initial list, developed by The Brookings Institute and the Buffalo Regional Institute, was revised and added to by the WNYREDC, based on information gathered in local communities. “Ultimately, the WNYREDC will recommend an investment strategy that will support the expansion of local companies, growth of new companies and target the attraction of new businesses, across the country and around the globe, to come to Buffalo,” said a council representative.

According to Regional Council Co-Chair Howard Zemsky, “The council and our partners are conducting deliberate and diligent work to narrow our key strategies, so that we can attract and create quality and good-paying jobs to Buffalo.”

The council announced that it will invest in workforce development, entrepreneurship, smart growth infrastructure projects, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism assets. The Springville Center for the Arts’ plans have been designated as smart growth infrastructure projects.

“The Springville Center for the Arts’ new [5 East Main St.] acquisition was recommended as a priority project because it implements and promotes smart growth by rehabilitating a building that is located at the center of Springville’s downtown in a mixed-use neighborhood,” said Empire State Development Deputy Director of Public Affairs Laura Magee. “The cafe project helps establish a walkable community with traditional, mixed-use design and a 24/7 sense of vibrancy with housing, workshops, artist residencies, performances, use of meeting design and connection to the streetscape.”

The total project cost of the SCA building is $661,620, according to Magee. The recommended WNYREDC grant for that project is $43,220.

SCA Executive Director Seth Wochensky called the designations “very, very good news for Springville,” but hinted that this announcement is only “a piece of what we’re waiting to hear about, over the next few months.” This grant is one of several that the SCA has recently applied for, in a consolidated funding application.

“We spent time trying to make the case that these projects would have a positive impact on the region and have met specific standards,” Wochensky said.

He added that the priority designation guarantees the SCA the maximum number of points in its being considered for not only this grant, but for several others, as well. “We are guaranteed to get a certain piece of the funding, and we are in good shape to get some other grants we applied for,” he said.

Springville Mayor Bill Krebs called the council’s consideration of these Springville endeavors “great news for the village, because it’s more money that may come into Springville to develop our village center.” He added, “The village is happy to see that the application for grants for the center for the arts and for the Art’s Café have been endorsed by the council and will be forwarded to the next level. It is very encouraging news and it will mean a whole lot to develop our village center, if these grants are awarded.”

“It’s exciting for them,” Concord Supervisor Gary Eppolito said. “I’m especially excited that they will be able to do a lot more work on the building next-door [to the Concord Town Hall].”

According to the council, if these economic development projects are awarded funding, they will generate more than $170 million in economic activity and create more than 900 direct and 2,600 indirect jobs throughout the state.

“We are small,” Wochensky said. “We are in a smaller community. But if you look at our budget, it belies our impact on the community. Fortunately, we were able to make the case that we make more of an impact than our budget readily shows.”

“We are hopeful that [the SCA] will be approved at the next round,” Krebs said. “It is good news. We are on our way. But ... we don’t have to wait for the regional council to tell us that Springville is a great place, because we already know it is.”

Magee said that the SCA’s projects encourage local economic development through the creation of jobs and the involvement of artists in the community. She said that other benefits of moving forward with these Springville projects include “historic preservation, tourism opportunities, attraction of young people and smart growth in the village center. The project is likely to encourage further private investment in the neighborhood, which is currently suppressed, due to the condition of this building.”

The new Art’s Cafe will create five full-time jobs and four part-time jobs to manage the cafe and garden space, all with above-standard wages, with benefits, according to Magee.

“The cafe, with its connection to the arts community, creates an environment appealing to young adults,” she said. “The project builds upon the strengths of the region, by utilizing a historic structure and creating an entity that will attract both environmental and arts tourism. The village of Springville also serves as a commercial center for communities in three counties.”

The council is currently mapping out its plans to generate private investments, to couple with the public funding. The areas being considered include advanced manufacturing, health, life sciences and tourism.

“These funds are not a blank check,” Wochensky said. “They are a commitment between both parties. There are a lot of strings attached.”

Along with the two Springville concepts, other proposed projects include:

– Finishing Trades Institute of Western and Central New York’s expanding of existing buildings’ training science.

– Western Region Corporation Community Revitalization Program’s creating and administering of loans and grants that will be available to communities in the five Western New York region counties.

– Wellsville waterline extension.

– Ellicottville’s regional water project, constructing a 350,000-gallon water tank and related water transmission works.

– Buffalo Niagara Street Sustainable Corridor and Community Integration Project.

– Downtown Niagara Falls Stabilization Project NYMS, to assist with the re-payment of student loans.

– Gowanda’s historic Hollywood Theater’s restoration and reopening.

– Center SPACE Buffalo’s operation of a multi-tenant office facility for non-profits, for-profits, social entrepreneurs and unincorporated community groups.

– Alfred University Integrated Manufacturing Center.

– Ceramic Technology Partnerships LLC’s joint development project to create a company which makes ceramic products using new manufacturing processes.

– The University at Buffalo’s NYS Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics.

– TheraSyn Pharmaceuticals’ expansion of an existing facility.

– Personalized medicine biorepository at UB.

– Wood fuel processing facility with Niagara Recovery.

– Dunkirk Bioenergy’s proposed recycled waste disposal alternative.

– Low emissions wood-fired boilers.

– Swain Ski Resort’s high-speed, detachable quad chairlift.

– Allegany State Park expansion.

– Darwin Martin House interior restoration.

– Arctic Edge exhibit at the Buffalo Zoo.

– ProTech Automation’s Lancaster facility expansion.

– Del Monte Foods’ proposed railcar staging and unloading installation at a Buffalo facility.

According to the council, the four regions with the best plans will compete for two awards of up to $25 million each, in capital funds.

“Awards will be made based on the progress the regional councils have made implementing their strategies and evolution of their strategic plans,” the council said, in a release.

The remaining six regions will together “compete for three awards of up to $25 million each in capital funds.... The balance of the $25 million in capital will be available for priority projects in the remaining five regions.”

Submissions of each region’s one-year progress reports will begin shortly. The Strategic Implementation Assessment Team will visit each region to hear presentations on and tour the projects. “These tours will make New York’s economic development process more transparent, open and publicly-accessible,” the council announced. More details will be released this fall.

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