Tonawanda News

January 18, 2010

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Business park inks deal for the future

By Neale Gulley<br><a href="mailto:gulleyn@gnnewspaper.com">E-mail Neale</a>

Owners of the Town’s Riverview Commerce Park signed a memorandum of understanding Monday with a Chinese sustainable technology coalition, a move hailed as the first step in reinventing the area’s former industrial role.

“The (memorandum) creates a platform for a framework for collaboration,” State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, said.

Schimminger spoke at the event, also attended by various other public officials on the state and local level, as well as a representative from the Empire State Development Corp., Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership complex in Buffalo.

Also present was Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who early this month was named chairman of the senate’s energy committee.

TM Montante Development, which owns the spacious business park on River Road emphasizing hundreds of acres of open spaces as a selling point, will partner with the Chinese Shanghai New Energy Industry Alliance.

“It is yet to be determined exactly how the two companies will collaborate,” Schimminger said after the signing.

Dan Montante could not be reached for further comment later in the day.

Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana, however, said Monday’s event is viewed as a jumping off point for a joint public/private effort to help the renewable energy industry — growing in China — take hold in the area.

And yes, he said local jobs would be a central part of that plan — that is, to possibly create “an east coast hub” in the Town Empire Economic Development Zone for renewable energy technology.

The agreement could mean anything from a future research and development operation, sales and distribution of photovoltaic — capable of producing voltage when exposed to radiant energy such as light — components and/or an assembling plant. The business park could potentially be used to host a site for a model solar farm.

Such were the ideas batted around.

“They want to be on the forefront of this green renewable technology,” Caruana said. “Who knows what could go from there.”

But officials don’t want you to think this is happening tomorrow. Schimminger indicated he’s be happy to see some tangible results by year’s end.

Nevertheless, based on the ideas, Caruana suggested the riverfront area along River Road where old fuel tanks are being cleaned and cleared could, as a whole, eventually be reused with its current zoning as a possible site for a network of similar business, each playing off each other.

“We’re trying to connect this to make it a whole center of industry like it was years ago but only with new sustainable energy ...” he said.

Schimminger also took care to point out the planned Youngman Commerce Park at the other end of the Empire Zone recently received a $1 million grant for a needed roadway to make that project viable.

That project, funded through the state’s Upstate Regional Blueprint grant program, could effectively connect both sites for future industry, ostensibly with the same focus: Sustainable energy.

A spokeswoman with the public relations firm Travers Collins, working on Montante’s behalf, also reported the Chinese delegation was given a tour of part of both Erie and Niagara counties Monday.

Schimminger, in his comments, quoted statistics indicating the state is at an important crossroads, needing 10 to 15 percent more power generation capacity in 10 years just to meet growing demand.

Contact reporter Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 114.