Summer’s heat brought with it good economic news, as well as continuing developments that position Erie County for future economic success. As the region’s local private-sector employers added jobs, developments at the Riverbend site and on the waterfront with the Rush Creek Interceptor Project added momentum to our revitalized economy and provided glimpses of a bright future.
Good economic news continues to come in 2015, as the Department of Labor’s June report showed the number of people who were employed in the Buffalo Niagara region during June grew by 1.7 percent over the past year, the highest level for any June since 2009. At 5.3%, the unemployment rate has been under 6% for four straight months, and eight of the last ten months; this is especially good news when you take into account that the unemployment rate on the day I took office, January 1, 2012, was 8.9%. In addition, in Erie County alone over 18,700 more people are working today than were working on that day, with even larger job growth occurring across the region as a whole. It’s also worth noting that these are primarily private-sector jobs, as government employment has decreased.
This good economic news is emphasized by other developments happening in Erie County, such as the transformation of the old Republic Steel site in Buffalo into the new, cutting-edge Solar City facility at River Bend. This one million square foot facility will eventually be the largest producer of solar panels in the Western Hemisphere, and I was honored to join Governor Cuomo recently as he reviewed the construction and raised a steel beam into place at the top. When completed, Solar City is expected to produce approximately 10,000 solar panels daily, create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York, and become a cornerstone of the economy in the new Erie County. Construction jobs are also booming on this new facility, with approximately 450 construction workers currently on site and that number expected to grow to nearly 1,500 by the fall. The factory will be online and in high volume manufacturing as early as the first quarter of 2016 and is expected to reach full capacity operation by early 2017.
We are also improving our “blue water economy” and building better infrastructure with the beginning of construction on Phase II of the Rush Creek Interceptor Project, which is now underway. Phase II will involve the construction of sewers to collect wastewater from the Blasdell Wastewater Treatment Plant, three pumping stations, and three existing sewer overflows in the Blasdell area. These outdated facilities will be eliminated through the Interceptor Project and their flows conveyed to the Southtowns Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility as part of this $16 million investment. As a result, potential sources of beach-closing bacteria will be reduced, creating a cleaner Lake Erie for residents and businesses. Clean water is essential to life, and we are working to protect this precious resource far into the future.