Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

ANDRES: Economic decisions are best made locally

by Richard L. Andres, 8th District Legislator, Economic Development Chair
Fri, Jun 7th 2024 10:00 am

As the chairman of the Niagara County Legislature’s Economic Development Committee, I have the pleasure each year to deliver the Economic Development Address. The purpose of this address is to cover the gamut of the programs we offer, look at how they performed and adjust our strategy as needed moving forward. In other words, it’s a great opportunity to ask, “How are we doing?”

My answer to that question is that these are exciting times in Niagara County. There are major projects going on and a host of smaller investments that are often the bedrock of any community. I commend the great work being done by our team at the Center for Economic Development — comprised of the county Department of Economic Development and our Industrial Development Agency.

The Amazon project is certainly the biggest project going on and yet, I still think the public does not know the significance of this investment. This is a $550 million investment to build a 3.1 million square foot warehouse and will create 1,000 jobs. Just for comparison purposes, the Tesla Plant in Buffalo, which was a very significant investment for the region, is 1.2 million square feet, less than half the size of Amazon. One of the biggest draws for Amazon to our community was the fact that the site they wanted was already certified as “shovel-ready.” Our economic development team had the foresight a decade ago, to get the site ready to go so that any interested developer knew that would be able to quickly get a shovel in the ground — well, as quickly as you can given the size and scope of the project.

As work on Amazon moves along, another great project was just announced – Niagara Falls-based Niacet Corp. will be investing $50 million in their plant to enhance their semiconductor manufacturing supply chain. The great news here is that Niacet used to be locally owned and operated, but is now owned by international firm the Kerry Group out of Ireland. Kerry has facilities across the globe and could have made this investment almost anywhere. But what we could offer — a highly-trained workforce, low-cost hydropower and other incentives from the IDA and New York state — carried the day.

It is clear Niagara County can compete for the big projects, but so much of what we do is supporting our local businesses and helping them grow. After the success of our first Façade Program of matching grants, which helped nearly 200 businesses and unleashed more than $10 million in capital investment, we just conducted a second round of grants, helping 150 businesses and creating $8 million investment. This year, we also launched the Niagara County Production Program which will provide matching grants of up to $50,000 to manufacturers for the purchase of equipment and machinery. In manufacturing, you need to be constantly investing in your production lines to stay competitive, so this is our approach to help our manufacturers retain and create jobs.

This just scratches the surface of what we are working on in economic development, but the progress is undeniable. Yet, there are some state policymakers who want to centralize economic development by eliminating local IDAs in favor of regional entities. This is a terrible idea. Local communities should be the lead in determining the type of projects they want in their community.

First, we are best positioned to decide the future of our development, what projects are worth incentivizing and how we want to grow. That voice should never be taken away. Second, smaller counties like Niagara would undoubtedly be placed on the back burner, with larger counties attempting to direct major investments within their borders. Is it hard to imagine a regional IDA dominated by Erie County acting solely in its own self-interest? and last, simply put, does anyone in Niagara County want Erie County politicians making decisions for us?

With our natural resources, geographic location and a business-friendly approach to development, Niagara County is poised for continued growth. We believe in partnering with other agencies at the state and federal levels, as collaboration is often key to getting projects across the finish line. But we will never support or take part in any effort that dilutes the voice, input and decision-making authority of our community.