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Buffalo should shout about Retech's move from California

by Editorial Board
Fri, Jan 31st 2020 09:00 am

MEMO TO: California business owners

FROM: Buffalo

SUBJECT: What are you waiting for?

That’s the message that Buffalo should be sending today. It’s cheaper to live here, space is available, savings are possible and the weather’s fine.

Retech Systems of Ukiah, Calif., knows it. The company, which already has an outpost in Williamsville, is about to move its headquarters and most of its operation to Buffalo’s Northland campus. The manufacturer of specialized furnaces will bring three dozen jobs with plans to increase its employment here to 80. Among them will be researchers, engineers, machine operators and positions in finance and administration.

The company manufactures furnaces that melt titanium and titanium alloy for use by such companies as Boeing and Airbus. In that, it merges manufacturing with high-tech industries whose future seems secure. That’s a good fit here.

It’s also useful that the company is planning to take up most of the remaining space at the Northland campus, the East Side installation that is also home to a potential source of recruits: the Northland Workforce Training Center. With the arrival of Retech, the campus will be 93% occupied. Officials of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. are working to fill that remaining space.

Density is good – good for the company, good for the building and good for Buffalo. It’s especially good for the East Side, which is home to some 42% of the city’s population – 78% of them people of color – but only about 30% of the city’s jobs. Acres of space are available and becoming increasingly attractive to developers, in part because of the state’s attention.

Much of that East Side opportunity flows from Buffalo Billion II, the follow-up phase of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s initial economic development program for this city. By directing $65 million into improved infrastructure, strengthened community anchors and other investments, the plan aims to bolster the north-south commercial corridors of Michigan, Jefferson, Fillmore and Bailey avenues.

It’s an important new direction. Buffalo’s East Side has suffered from decades of disinvestment, but the city’s revival is now spreading beyond the predictable precincts and has begun seeping into those economically parched neighborhoods. It’s a hopeful time for Buffalo and, more to today’s point, an opportunity for businesses.

The state and the city are taking steps to sweeten those opportunities. Retech was lured, in part, by up to $500,000 in Excelsior Jobs tax credits from Empire State Development Corp., if it meets its job targets. Other state and local incentives are also available.

The private sector here has already taken notice. If those in California – and every other state, for that matter – haven’t also noticed, it is Buffalo’s job to bring it to their attention.

New York’s high-tax reputation works against it in attracting out-of-state businesses, but it can be overcome, especially in high-tax states like California. Let Retech be Buffalo’s poster child.