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Northland workforce training construction continues, aided by $14 million in tax credits

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Construction continues on the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo's East Side, a project that many look upon as the anchor of broader Northland Corridor redevelopment. On Tuesday, elected officials, labor leaders and representatives of the financial community announced that millions of dollars in new markets tax credits are fueling the project, warning that federal tax reform has threatened the future use of such credits.

When completed and opened next year, the Northland Workforce Training Center is expected to train at least 300 people per year.

"These students will be supported with wraparound services that will lead to them graduating and securing employment in advanced manufacturing and energy sectors," said Stephen Tucker, chief executive officer of the training center. 

Congressman Brian Higgins appeared to help announce that $14 million in new markets tax credits are supporting construction of the facility. Nine million dollars of those credits are being provided through the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust. 

The other $5 million is coming from the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. Michael Phillips, Public Policy Manager for that entity, spoke of how federal tax reform threatened to do away with historic and new markets tax cuts, which make projects like the Northland construction possible.

"We worked hard to make sure that the credits that worked survived tax reform," Phillips said. "But we are not out of the woods yet. The historic tax credit lost value in tax reform. Now HTC is spread out over five years, so we want to fix that in coming years."

He added that without further Congressional intervention, new markets tax credits will be phased out in the next two years.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Hochul appeared on behalf the Cuomo Administration, which has committed $44 million to redevelopment in Buffalo's Northland Corridor. She told those in attendance that Albany's commitment to Buffalo's economic renaissance goes beyond the waterfront, downtown and Riverbend.

"This is not just a symbol of jobs to come," she said. "It's also a symbol of hope for the people who live here and for too long felt they were abandoned by their government. That era is over. We're going to bring people here, starting next summer or next fall, and train them in the skills that employers are begging for."

Tucker suggested graduates of the program could eventually earn up to $75,000 annually.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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