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Cuomo to announce $225 million high-tech, clean-energy development in Buffalo

In the largest down payment on his Buffalo billion-dollar commitment, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this morning will announce the creation of a clean-energy research campus on 90 acres of land along the Buffalo River that will include two initial tenants moving from California to create 850 jobs.

The RiverBend project calls for $225 million in state funding to build the first of six buildings on a brownfield site that Cuomo administration officials believe will become the center of some of the nation's leading clean and green energy research.

"It's the initiation of an industry,'' said a senior Cuomo administration official who spoke with The Buffalo News on condition of anonymity.

The project will be run by the State University of New York's Research Foundation, which is headquartered in Albany, and has the help from top officials at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, the State University of New York's newest college, which has become a major source of jobs in Albany with its focus the past two decades on nanoscience research.

"If it's just 850 jobs, that's great. But we believe it could be for Western New York what nano was for the Capital District,'' the administration official said Wednesday night.

The first two tenants in the first of six planned buildings are being lured, like those in Albany to the nanoscale facility, with the promise that the state will provide the space and expensive equipment that they could not otherwise afford on their own to do cutting-edge research in the field of clean energy.

Officials say the model works because companies, once they locate, find it difficult to leave because they cannot replicate a facility with so much expensive equipment upon which research is conducted. In Albany, the nanoscale center has attracted a who's who of computer chip makers and other high-tech firms from around the world.

"One of the things that built Buffalo, literally, was the availability of low-cost energy, and clean energy and the technology of clean energy is a growth industry,'' the Cuomo administration officials said.

Cuomo vowed in 2012 to pump in an extra $1 billion in state money over several years to try to provide an economic rebirth in Buffalo, which he said has been ignored for too long by the state.

"The premise of the Buffalo billion was to develop an economic strategy that builds on the strengths of Buffalo. You identify the strengths, you then build on rock and the strengths are the rock,'' the administration official said. "This is a very cool, big thing,'' the source added of Thursday's announcement.

Speaking in Adam's Mark Hotel this morning, the governor will flesh out a proposal, first made last month, to make this region a hub for high-tech research, manufacturing and work force training.

The state in October began seeking bids from developers to work on the high-tech campus, saying it was seeking proposals to create "state-of-the-art facilities and cutting edge infrastructure" at an unknown site in this area.

Several major developers in this region have expressed interest in the contract, and they have until Dec. 10 to respond.

The project being unveiled today will be constructed on the former Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke site.

The previously contaminated industrial property, which is now vacant, takes up more than 200 acres in total, bounded by the Buffalo River to the north, Tifft Street to the south and a set of railroad tracks and the Tifft Nature Preserve to the west.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has led a federally funded habitat restoration of the property. The Buffalo Urban Redevelopment Corp. is the lead redevelopment agent and has proposed a mix of commercial, residential and retail uses for the site.

Also today, the governor is expected to visit the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn, the site of a planned $100 million investment by the automaker that is tied to expanded production across the border and will create as many as 300 new jobs, The News reported earlier this month. That project is in line to receive $1 million from the New York Power Authority.