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Millions of state dollars heading to local communities

Mike Desmond/WBFO

The second phase of investment from the state's Buffalo Billion initiative will be directed downtown. However, Buffalo won't be the beneficiary; instead, the money will provide a boost to the downtowns of Gowanda, North Tonawanda, Lackawanna and Dunkirk. 

"It's time for the people of Gowanda to no longer shiver in the rain but to dance in the sun. It's a great day for us," said Gowanda Mayor David Smith. His community will be one of four local municipalities receiving $2.5 million to help spruce up its downtown area. In Gowanda that will mean help with the rehab of the landmark Hollywood Theater.

Governor Cuomo announced the awards Wednesday in North Tonawanda, saying the awards reflect "more of a regional approach" in handing out economic development funding.

"The strongest growth is when the entire region is working and is coming back. Right? So, you don't have just a few big engines of economic action. You have multiple ones," Cuomo said.

The small cities were part of a competition won by Olean, which takes the top prize of $10 million. Second place, in this case, still carries a significant reward.

Lackawanna Mayor Jeff Szymanski has big plans for the $2.5 million, much of it focused around the well-traveled intersection of South Park Avenue and Ridge Road where stamped concrete will adorn the crosswalks.

"We're also going to do the same thing at the corner of Electric and Ridge where we have a lot of restaurants and businesses over there. We are looking to put in a visitors path from the Botanical Gardens to the Basilica because it's a block away."

In North Tonawanda, its mayor, Art Pappas, is also looking to build on one of its most familiar features.

"We have the canal right here and we have the Niagara River just a few blocks over," Pappas said. 

"So, we're surrounded by water and with two different venues, with a main river leading to the lake and the canal itself. So, that's very helpful too in promoting tourism and the projects we'd like to continue."




Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.