There's been a big shakeup in Albany's management of major local economic development projects. Empire State Development has been given control of the construction of the Athenex plants, projects that have been stalled because the state hasn't been paying its bills.
The Athenex plan calls for Albany to spend $225 million on a vast pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Dunkirk and a lab and manufacturing operation on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The project has suddenly started to look shaky because the bills aren't being paid for construction, bringing work to a halt. Now, Albany has pulled SUNY Poly off the project and put Empire State Development completely in charge.
"We have to figure out a way to immediately cut through the red tape and get the project moving again," said a frustrated Cathy Young, the State Senator whose district includes Dunkirk. She also chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
"Our greatest export has been our young people and we're working to change that around. That's why Athenex is such an incredibly important project because it is going to give so many opportunities to people in Western New York and to our young people."
The project problems are very similar to those earlier this year, involving the same players where work stopped on the SolarCity complex in South Buffalo because bills weren't being paid. Young, a Republican, is praising Governor Cuomo for making the changes.
"It's deeply concerning when you see a project held up and especially one of such size and magnitude and importance to the region. This is a promise that has been made to the people of Dunkirk and the people of Chautauqua County," said Young.
SUNY Poly will continue to be involved because a subsidiary owns the Dunkirk property for the Athenex plant and leases space in the Conventus building on the Medical Campus which is sub-leased to Athenex.