Somerset Residents Discuss Verizon Project

November 3, 2010 Updated Nov 3, 2010 at 10:18 PM EDT

By WKBW News

November 3, 2010 Updated Nov 3, 2010 at 10:18 PM EDT

Somerset, NY (WKBW) The Verizon Data Center, a proposed project in Somerset, N.Y., would turn a plot of land in Northern Niagara County into a high tech hub. It is a multi-billion dollar venture, with the potential of millions of dollars coming into the local community.

Wednesday, Verizon took one more step forward towards coming to Somerset. The industrial development agency for the project held a public meeting regarding the big build.

"This is a huge event not only for Somerset and Niagara County, but for all of Western New York," Henry Sloma of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency said. "We're trying to get public input, and what we've heard here is generally a positive tone."

The main concern at Wednesday's meeting was whether local construction firms will be hired to build the data center.

Somerset resident Tony Porter spoke at the meeting. "I'm just advocating fair contracting for everybody. Everyone should benefit from 500 million dollars in construction work," he said.

The other question was about who's paying for the project. Sloma quickly answered that. "The funding is coming from Verizon. It's a private venture. It's all their money," he said.

The communications company will be investing a lot, about $1.2 billon, creating 500 construction jobs and 200 Verizon jobs. Company representatives were at the meeting, hearing public input.

"We're here just to observe and see what the community is saying, and we've been very pleased. They've been very embracing and we think that it's moving along very nicely," Maureen Rasp-Glose of Verizon said after the meeting.

Verizon has not made its final decision yet on whether to build in Western New York, but the company representative said Somerset is on the short list to land the data center. She added that Verizon is debating between the Niagara County town and another state to build. But the chairman of the development agency was still very confident, saying he hopes to start construction on the project this year.