Niagara Gazette — New York Power Authority allocations to companies within 30 miles of the Robert Moses Plant in Lewiston helped secure some 1,100 jobs and $500 million in capital investments during the past year.
In its annual report released Tuesday, the nation’s largest state public power agency reviewed its wide-ranging involvement with economic development in 2013, including the Yahoo Data and Customer Care Center in Lockport, where ground was broken for a $170 million expansion that will add 115 jobs, virtually doubling the current employment at the site. At present, Yahoo is the second largest data center worldwide and its most energy efficient facility.
Another Buffalo-Niagara industry aided by NYPA was General Motors’ Tonawanda engine plant, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in August 2013. It has been training new employees and doubling the size of its workforce from its low point during the massive restructuring in the auto industry several years ago.
Currently the plant is receiving more than 23 megawatts of Niagara hydropower, sufficient to meet its entire electricity requirements. As part of that agreement, GM has committed to invest $825 million to produce a new line of fuel-efficient engines at the Tonawanda facility. The plant employs some 1,700 people with additional growth projected.
Further support for economic development is from special funds established through legislation and linked to specific regions. The first grants were awarded from the Western New York Economic Development Fund, administered with recommendations by the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board.
NYPA’s support for local tourism was shown when two Maid of the Mist sightseeing boats, each weighing 125,000 tons, were lifted out of the river and stored in new dry-dock facilities at the site of the former Schoellkopf Power Plant destroyed by a rock slide in 1956. The longtime family-run business, faced with shutting down after losing its lease on the Canadian side of the Niagara gorge, is investing $32 million in the new facilities. That investment was also made possible through an agreement with the Power Authority, which owns the property, and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which maintains the site.
The authority’s admission-free Power Vista proved again a solid boost to area tourism, attracting nearly 190,000 children and adults to the Robert Moses Power Plant complex in 2013, a 26 percent increase from the previous year. In addition, the Power Vista marked its 50th anniversary last year, welcoming its 7 millionth visitor. That milestone occurred with a reunion of construction workers, known as the Hard Hats of Niagara, who helped construct the $730 million Niagara Project that produced its first power in February 1961.