Schumer Makes Push to Double Size of Buffalo Niagara Innovation Center

October 17, 2011 Updated Oct 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Schumer Makes Push to Double Size of Buffalo Niagara Innovation Center

October 17, 2011 Updated Oct 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM EDT

(WKBW release) On Monday at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, New York Senator Charles E.Schumer announced that he is making a major push to bring the federal Economic Development Administration to Buffalo to help double the size of the existing Innovation Center on Ellicott Street.

The 128,000 square foot Innovation Center is set to reach full capacity in the near future, but Schumer is seeking to expand the center's reach by helping create an additional center at the site of the former Trico Windshield Factory.

To create a second Innovation Center to replace the abandoned factory, Schumer is pushing the EDA to partner with the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus to help the group identify federal funding opportunities to build the center, and additional programs that will help attract new high-tech companies to the facility. Small, start up biotech companies like those currently operating in The Innovation Center often need incubator space and federal support in the early stages of their development. Schumer wants to expand the Innovation Center so that the technology developed on the Medical Campus will result in companies and jobs created right in Buffalo, as opposed to other states.

"After touring the Innovation Center today, it is clear that we must use every tool available to make the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus' expansion plans a reality," said Schumer. "As the Innovation Center approaches full capacity, I am urging the Economic Development Administration to work with the BNMC to etch out a plan that allows this unique center to identify federal funding options, and to aid in everything from preliminary preparation to engineering and construction of the new center. I am going to fight to make the abandoned Trico Factory the home to the BNMC's second Innovation Center, as it would symbolize a transition from an industrial to a 21st century economy in Buffalo, and would continue to revitalize Buffalo's downtown."

Schumer is urging the Economic Development Administration to work with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to etch out a plan for the expansion of their unique Innovation Center and to identify federal funding options, such as technical support, public works grants, and economic planning assistance, to help the second Innovation Center get off the ground. The plan for the second Innovation Center is still in its preliminary stages, and Schumer hopes to partner the EDA with the BNMC in order to develop a feasible plan of action, so that the center can provide workspace to additional new, innovative companies in downtown Buffalo.

Schumer toured the remaining space of the Innovation Center that is currently under renovation, and was joined by University at Buffalo Interim Provost Harvey Stenger and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Chief Operating Officer Patrick Whalen as he announced his push to bring the Economic Development Administration to Buffalo to help get the second innovation center up and running. Schumer touted that the BNMC's Innovation Center is a new model for old industrial cities transitioning to the innovation economy, and is pushing for its expansion.

Schumer also points out that the model fits squarely with the Economic Development Administration's mission, and is at the forefront of revitalizing Buffalo's downtown. In the next few years, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus expects 10,000 individuals a day on campus, and needs additional assistance to accommodate this demand and ensure that the Innovation Center remains a major factor in transitioning Buffalo's downtown into 21st century economy.

The mission of the Economic Development Administration is to generate jobs, help retain existing jobs, and stimulate industrial and commercial growth in economically distressed areas of the United States. In fulfilling its mission, EDA is guided by the basic principle that distressed communities must be empowered to develop and implement their own economic development and revitalization strategies. EDA programs work to provide a wide range of technical, planning, and public works and infrastructure assistance, such as strategy development, infrastructure construction, and revolving loan fund capitalization.
This program is designed to respond flexibly to pressing economic recovery issues and is well suited to help address challenges faced by U.S. communities and regions.

The Thomas R Beecher Jr. Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was developed to provide incubator space for early stage companies, often companies engaged in the commercializing of medical technology developed on the medical campus. Often these young companies have a need for very specialized and expensive workspace in order to grow and develop. The Innovation Center provides that space to new innovative companies in the early stages of their development, and this availability of adequate facilities has kept these companies and their employees in Western New York. In a little over a year, the Innovation center has already helped create about 100 jobs in downtown Buffalo.

The Innovation Center's business model has been so successful, that after only 15 months of existence, it is approaching full occupancy. In the 128,000 square foot industrial building, almost all space is being leased or a lease is being negotiated under a signed letter of intent.
At the same time, research on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus continues to grow and it is reasonable to expect that research in this high-tech facility will only form more companies. Schumer noted that this only highlights the need for the EDA to partner with the BNMC, as once the Innovation Center is full, there will be a shortage of space for early stage companies in Buffalo.

Schumer noted one such successful business at the Innovation Center, called Medical Acoustics, which develops state of the art medical devices. Medical Acoustics is one of the longest standing companies at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and is currently working on a new technology for respiratory illnesses, called the Lung Flute. Schumer pointed to Medical Acoustics as a perfect instance of an innovative company that has flourished since setting its sights on the BNMC's Innovation Center.

Schumer stated that the proposal to double the size of the Innovation Center would be a major shot in the arm for the region's economy, all while continuing to develop Buffalo's urban center in a smart and sustainable manner.  As with the original Innovation Center, tenants in the expanded facility would create and retain existing jobs in Western New York, especially those for young individuals educated by local universities and colleges. Schumer noted that State University of New York at Buffalo is the leading source of both the companies and the employees as an instance of the positive impact that the medical campus has had on the city, region, and entire state of New York.