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25 projects on local economic development wish list to Albany

New York State

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council sent its wish list to Albany Tuesday.

Each of the state's 10 Regional Economic Development Councils submits a list to Albany, with the final list of projects to receive state grants to come out late this year. The local wish list includes 25 projects, ranging from more sewer lines for Chautauqua Lake to infrastructure on Seneca Street in Buffalo to Niagara Falls' plan for the SouthEnd Gateway District Revitalization near the Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino.

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said the sewer system is important because of the need to keep Chautauqua Lake clean.

"It's huge," Horrigan said. "Chautauqua Lake's the economic driver for this and we need to complete the sewer system around the lake. It's critical not only for economic development but for the condition of the lake. Old septic systems, about 1200 of them, eventually break down and phosphorus seeps into the lake. So this is huge."

Overall, the list requests about $20 million in new money, to match cash from other places. The overall cost of the sewer extension alone approaches $17 million. Some projects are far smaller, like $600,000 for restoring the exterior of the Broadway Market.

Other projects include a cancer research and treatment project at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, expanding Buffalo's African American Cultural Center, expanding the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park and a Southern Tier Business Center at Alfred University.

Council Co-Chair and Olean businessman Jeff Belt pushed for the stabilization of the old Manny Hanny bank building.

"Empty for over 20 years, it's a key building in our downtown - a seven-story bank building at the busiest corner in all of Cattaraugus County. Very challenging project," Belt said. "The Olean Urban Renewal Agency has owned the project for five or six years now and they do now have a preferred developer."

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
The Western New York Regional economic Development Council has sent its wish list to Albany.

Olean has been successful in a series of projects in the city's core that are serving as examples for other small cities in the region on how to navigate the state process.

Buffalo Building Trades Council President Paul Brown said he is excited about a plan to expand a construction job training facility on the the city's East Side, the SMART Training Center.

"They do a lot of welding. Welding is a big high demand. It's not just for the sheet metal workers, it's for all the trades," Brown said. "The other thing is that they're putting $1.3 million dollars on the East Side of Buffalo. It's right on Liberty Avenue. It's a stone's throw from Burgard. If you are going to recruit people, if you are going to recruit minorities and young minorities is what you really want, that's the place to do it."

Brown said the market seems to continuously absorb an endless flow of welders and still needs more in a job that pays well.

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.
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