Tonawanda News

September 21, 2013

County officials discuss economic growth opportunities in Tonawanda

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — AMHERST —  The commissioner of Erie County’s Department of Environment and Planning, Maria Whyte, highlighted three potential economic growth opportunities in the Tonawandas Friday afternoon at a Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.

The projects, which were included in Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s “Initiatives for a Smart Economy report,” are in varying stages of development, but two of the initiatives — the Spaulding Fiber plant site in the City of Tonawanda and the North Youngmann Commerce Center — are months away from fruition. 

Workers are currently completing infrastructure improvements to the town’s commerce center, a 92-acre parcel site north of the Youngmann Expressway. The construction, which includes the installation of water and sewer lines, is set to cost $2.8 million.

The town has received $2.1 million from Geico for the project and $500,000 from the Empire State Development Corp.

“This site didn’t require cleanup, because it was really just former fields,” Whyte said.

Last month, Wythe Will Tzetzo, a candy and food specialty company that currently leases town property, announced its intention to move its headquarters to the new park and build a $17 million center. Monday, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency granted the company $5.1 million in tax abatements. 

“That is one of those things we struggle with ... when is it prudent to make a partnership with a company?” Whyte said. “This is precisely when abatement makes sense ... when a new generation of wealth is the result.”

The company will hire 25 to 35 additional employees over the next two to three years as a result of the expansion. Construction is set to begin in November.

The Spaulding Fiber site in the City of Tonawanda is also ready for development after an eight-year, $20 million cleanup effort. 

“It took a great deal of time to raise the money for the cleanup,” Whyte said. “It’s very exciting.”

She noted that Simmers Crane Design & Services plans to move to the site. City of Tonawanda administrator Richard Planavsky said Friday that the company is completing its preparations.

“I think they are getting quite close to offering to purchase the parcel of land,” he said, noting the offer would then go before the council for its approval.

Poloncarz’s report also discusses the cherry farm parcel at the south end of the Grand Island Bridge in the Town of Tonawanda. A landfill was previously located on the property.

“It is a large part of the county and the town’s potential for public waterfront landscape,” Whyte said Friday at the lunch.

She said the county’s next step in developing the area will be to complete a feasibility study to assess how the property could be used. The study will likely cost $100,000.

Whyte also noted a number of other projects the town and county are working together on, including work at the former Polymer Applications site. The Erie County Land Reutilization Corp., which obtains vacant and blighted properties and redevelops them, is also testing out their pilot program with a Tonawanda property.

“The land bank will help deal with the problem of vacant and distressed properties, and the Sheridan Parkside building in the program is a very serious problem property,” Whyte said.

Contact reporterJessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley