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Tom Kucharski

For those of us steeped in economic development, constantly promoting and growing our communities, every week is economic development week! This year more than ever, we welcome the opportunity to pause and take stock of our accomplishments, as we all seek to lift our communities beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Chair of the International Economic Development Council, I have been honored to engage with communities around the world for a first-hand look at what our peers are doing during these trying times. On a more local level, I am fortunate to work closely with economic development teams of the eight counties of Western New York, and to have a front row seat to their efforts and resilience over the past year and beyond. 

To that end, I talked with Mike Casale, Commissioner of Niagara County Department of Economic Development; Steve Hyde, President & CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center; Mark Geise, CEO of Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA); and Jim Pierce, Executive Director of the Wyoming County Business Center about their offerings and the success they’ve seen over the past year, in light of and despite of the impact of COVID-19. 

Q: What unique or specific projects has your county been working on to support economic recovery mid and post COVID? 

Mark Geise, Chautauqua County 
A: The CCIDA was awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which has been fully committed to more than 60 companies in the form of low-interest loans. We also worked with current customers of our Al-Tech Loan Funding to allow interest only payments as well as deferments. We established an Emergency Working Capital Loan fund which assisted 24 companies with loans of $25,000 each, as well as a PPE grant program to assist businesses in protecting their employees and customers during COVID-19. 

Jim Pierce, Wyoming County
A: We deferred loan payments for our borrowers for six months and established a low doc Re-Start Loan program for businesses to start back up or diversify to meet the change in how to do business during a pandemic.

Mike Casale, Niagara County
A: In response to the sharp downturn in the hospitality industry as a result of the COVID crisis, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency established the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP). The loan program, which uses funds from the U.S. Economic Development Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is intended to assist qualifying businesses in paying their property taxes. In the summer of 2020, 23 hospitality firms received a total of over $2.05 million in loans through this program. 

Q: Do you have a project within your county that you are most proud of right now?

Jim Pierce, Wyoming County
A: Last year, a branded hotel - a first for Wyoming County - opened their doors in Warsaw.

Mike Casale, Niagara County
A: Trek Inc., a subsidiary of Advanced Energy Industries (AE) of Denver, CO, plans to develop a High Voltage Center of Excellence (HVCOE) at Lockport's Harrison Place, the former Harrison Radiator plant in the City of Lockport.  The $8.2 million expansion will see the company gut and renovate 32,000 square feet of space to make way for the HVCOE which will reduce new product development costs, lead times and operating expense.  AE will also be able to onshore currently outsourced manufacturing.  The project will result in the retention of 127 jobs and the creation of 60 new jobs with a total annual payroll of $12.2 million at the end of three years.

Steve Hyde, Genesee County
A: The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia was developed from a pumpkin patch into an incredible economic driver for Genesee County and Western New York’s milkshed. Investments by O-AT-KA Milk Products, HP Hood, the Upstate Niagara Cooperative and others have created over one million square feet of food processing, over 800 food and beverage manufacturing jobs, and north of $500 million of investment. We have a 30-acre site with rail access available at the Park for the next round of activity.

Mark Geise, Chautauqua County 
A: Athenex, a brand new 300,000 square foot pharmaceutical manufacturing facility located in Dunkirk, is gearing up for production by the end of 2021. 

Q: Do you have a project you have been working on virtually with success? 

Steve Hyde, Genesee County
A: Plug Power’s investment in North America’s largest green hydrogen manufacturing facility at the STAMP mega site will be a catalyst for future development in the Buffalo-Rochester Tech Corridor as a renewables manufacturing hub. Teams based across the U.S. have been able to advance the $232 million project over virtual meetings, starting with our initial conversations and continuing through construction planning.

Mark Geise, Chautauqua County 
A: We recently created an economic development-focused public/private partnership, called the Partnership for Economic Growth, which consists of five working groups and more than 100 stakeholders. This group completed an economic development strategy with the assistance of Camoin Associates, and has identified 16 high priority projects which will help to change the trajectory of Chautauqua County’s economic development climate. 

Q: What assets does your county or town offer expanding or relocating businesses? 

Jim Pierce, Wyoming County
A: We offer low-cost municipal power in three villages in Wyoming County, low land cost, and in general a lower cost of doing business. We also have IDA incentives for eligible projects.

Mike Casale, Niagara County
A: We offer low-cost power incentives either through the New York Power Authority (NYPA) or Niagara County's Empower Niagara Program, which offers the benefits of low-cost power to small-to-medium sized companies that don't qualify for NYPA's programs.  We have a Microenterprise Assistance Program that offers grants to companies with five or less full-time employees. We are also able to offer low-interest loans, workforce development and training through Niagara's WorkSourceOne, assistance with environmental site assessments through Niagara County's Brownfields Program and the unique EIC Open-C-PACE financing program that channels private capital funding to industrial, commercial and non-profit building owners seeking energy upgrades and efficiencies.

Steve Hyde, Genesee County
A: Genesee County offers the optimal combination of transportation, workforce, and utility assets. We have developed over 2,000 acres of shovel-ready business parks off of three Thruway interchanges, and have a dedicated Genesee F.A.S.T. talent delivery team. At our 1,250-acre STAMP mega site, Plug Power’s Project Gateway investment includes a 500 MW substation to deliver 100% renewable hydropower at $0.035/kwh.


Now that you know our collective capabilities, lets get to work on your project. View our project planning form and contact us. 

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Founded in 1999, Invest Buffalo Niagara represents the eight counties of Western New York. We are the region’s nonprofit, privately funded economic development organization focused on job creation. 

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