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by chocieni
Mon, Jul 16th 2012 12:00 am




Buffalo, NY - The Erie County Industrial Development Agency today approved nearly $7.8 million in inducements for a mix of industrial and educational projects, led by $7.65 million in aid for Welded Tube USA, Inc.


Toronto-based Welded Tube of Canada, Inc. plans to construct a new high-speed steel tube production facility in Lackawanna's Tecumseh Business Park, investing $50.1 million in site acquisition, construction and equipment purchases over the next five years. The multi-building industrial venue will include in Phase One a 100,000-square-foot production plant, with later phases to include a 30,000-square-foot testing lab and a 30,000-square-foot pipe threading and coupling facility.


The project represents the first new major investment on the former steel production site. The 40 acre brownfield site, which was once part of the Bethlehem Steel property, will also require remediation work before construction can commence.


The ECIDA board approved $6.8 million in property tax savings, plus $850,000 in sales and mortgage recording tax abatements to assist the massive industrial project.


The company, which currently employs more than 600 workers at five sites in Canada and one in South Carolina, anticipates hiring 25 staffers for the Lackawanna plant in its first year of operation, growing its workforce to 121 when the facility reaches 100 percent build-out.


The company produces multi-faceted, cold-formed carbon and high-strength, low alloy tubular steel used for industrial companies across North America.


The agency board also approved $122,000 in sales and mortgage recording tax relief for conversion of a residential structure on Buffalo's West Side into West Buffalo Charter School.  Lafayette Group, Inc., a division of Ellicott Development is undertaking the $3.8 million project to turn the former Lafayette Tower apartment complex into what will become a K-4 school.


The five-story structure will debut this fall as a K-2 facility on the building's lower two floors with 162 students.  Enrollment will climb to 270 by its fifth year of operation when third and fourth graders are part of the education equation and the entire building has been rehabbed.


It is expected to employ an administrative and teaching staff of 28-full-time and five part-time when all five grades are offered.


The school will emphasize development of proficiency in core early literacy languages skills. One half of students that have enrolled for next year are Burmese refugees for whom English is a second language.

The ECIDA board also amended a previously approved incentive package for Bryant & Stratton College. The private career college, which is building out its online education operations center at 180 Redtail Road in Orchard Park, was granted an additional $26,000 in sales tax relief. 


The school came back to the board seeking additional sales tax abatement when the cost of equipment for its online education facility increased from $800,000 to $1.1 million. The total sale tax forgiveness now stands at $96,000.


In other action, the agency board is proposing to lift its moratorium on financial assistance for hotel and motel projects by approving a revised policy which tightens the rules for eligibility.


Under the new policy, the ECIDA would no longer provide incentives for hotel renovations, and aid to new or existing hotels must fall under one or more of the following criteria:


-     A new or substantially renovated facility in connection with a new or existing convention center, and would substantially and directly impact the operations of such convention center;


-     A new or renovated hotel associated with a new conference center that primarily services out of area users; center must also have stand alone food service facilities and state-of-the-art technology services and an analysis must show customers would primarily come from outside Erie County;


-     A new hotel constructed in connection with and directly support a major regional attraction;


-     Be part of an Adaptive Reuse Project that meets the agency's Adaptive Reuse Project guidelines.


The board action requires the notification to local taxing jurisdictions of the proposed change to the policy, along with seeking public comment as a required next step before final approval.


The ECIDA board also amended a long-standing sale-leaseback arrangement it approved in 1987 to assist development of a retail/office building adjacent to the Buffalo Hyatt Regency Hotel, known as the Buffalo Conference Center.  The assignment of the agreement will change from West Genesee Hotel Associates to Genesee Hotel Properties, LLC, as part of a refinancing of the property being undertaken by the owners.  The action does not provide any new or additional benefits to the property.


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