Buffalo high-tech manufacturing hub unveiled
Public-sector incentives to the ability to attract top-level scientists and engineers were among the primary factors that led to a pair of California-based high-tech, clean-energy firms to be the first anchors of a South Buffalo development park focused on the concept of advanced manufacturing.
Soraa and Silveo, each with operations in Fremont, Calif., will anchor the first 275,000-square-foot building that should be constructed and opened within the next 18 months. The firms have pledged to invest $1.5 billion in starting up their operations in the just-minted Buffalo High Tech Manufacturing Innovative Hub at Riverbend, a 90-acre office and high tech park set to be developed on the former Republic Steel property along South Park Avenue.
The two companies pledged to create 850 jobs initially and, potentially, another 1,200 positions after that. Developing the tech site will also generate hundreds of construction jobs.
"This is an economic development home run," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
To land the companies, New York state is investing $225 million from the Buffalo Billions fund for infrastructure work. Officials noted neither company will receive direct funding from the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who personally recruited Soraa and Silveo to Buffalo, hopes the project will serve as an economic development springboard for future private sector-led investments in the fledgling park.
"We are developing a cluster economy," Cuomo said. "We hope to get enough businesses from the same area all feeding off each other. This is just the beginning. This is going to blossom."
The site, which has been under remediation for more than a decade, is patterned after a successful nanotechnology development park just outside of Albany that has created thousands of high-paying jobs and millions in private-sector investment.
"We have that jump-start from Albany, so we are starting ahead of the curve," Cuomo said.
The Soraa and Silveo deals are among the largest economic development announcements to be made locally in recent memory.
"We chose Buffalo as the best location for our expansion based on several factors," said Dr. Tom Caulfield, Soraa president and COO.
The company, which specializes in LED technology, is shifting R&D and manufacturing operations from a plant it has in California's Silicon Valley to Buffalo. Caulfield credited the aggressive pitch made by Cuomo along with the incentive package and ability to recruit top level scientists and engineers to Buffalo as key factors.
"Our presence here will facilitate job growth," Caulfield said.
Soraa, alone, will be investing $750 million and creating 375 jobs initially at the Riverbend plant.
Silevo has also pledged to invest $750 million and create 475 jobs. The company develops silicon solar cells and modules.
Both companies will develop ties with the University at Buffalo.
Technically, the Riverbend complex housing the two companies will be owned by the State University of New York Research Foundation but Soraa and Silveo will be subject to clawback penalties if they fall to meet job creation and private-sector investment goals.
In all, the Riverbend park will house six buildings. The buildings size and scope will be tenant-driven and determined.
The Empire State Development Corp. is reviewing six bids from local developers to determine who will construct the buildings. Those bids and awards are expected within the next few weeks.
"This is real, it is like bringing the New York Yankees to Buffalo," said Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering senior vice president and CEO.
The formal announcement on Riverbend was one of two major economic developments Cuomo made Thursday while in Western New York. He also was present when Ford Motor Co. formalized a $150 million investment for its stamping plant in Hamburg.