BUFFALO – Michael Kearns has been waiting for this day.
The 145th-district Assembly member, formerly a city councilman representing the South District in Buffalo, has watched for years as a large plot of land near the waterfront has sat vacant in South Buffalo. It was once the site of the booming steel industry, but then it malformed into an empty, polluted wasteland, a place where the glory days of the steel mills seemed like far-fetched memories.
There have always been plans to develop this area of South Buffalo, designated by the state as a "Brownfield Opportunity Area," or BOA for short. BOAs are essentially plots of land with hazardous conditions, pollution and corruption that desperately need the state to intervene and redevelop them. The South Buffalo BOA is the largest of its kind in New York.
So imagine Kearns' emotions when he learned that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has planned a trip to Buffalo for Thursday morning, which according to our Investigative Post partners will result in perhaps the most unprecedented economic development announcement this region has ever seen.
"This could be really transformational for Buffalo," Kearns said.
Investigative Post editor James Heaney first reported that Cuomo will announce on Thursday a $225 million investment from the state to help fund the arrival of two clean energy companies in South Buffalo. The companies, based currently in California, will bring 850 initial jobs to the area and will then create more than one thousand additional positions after operations begin. The two companies will move into a 90-acre plot of land at the former Republic Steel site on the brownfield, set to open in 2015.
"The great thing that I like, is it's close to the urban core, meaning that people who live within the area can walk to work," Kearns said. "That's an enormous benefit for a city like Buffalo."
Kearns said the arrival of these two companies has a potential "domino effect," especially in light of other development in South Buffalo and the rest of the city.
"This," Kearns said, "was the idea behind the South Buffalo BOA."
Cuomo's anticipated announcement, a part of the Billion to Buffalo deal, is intended as a pillar for economic development in this region. According to Heaney's sources, the arrival of these two clean energy companies could serve as a "critical mass" to attract other companies to also join the South Buffalo BOA.
"We've really had to work hard to clean up that land," Kearns said, "And get it prepared for a day like tomorrow."