New York state officials are looking into possible re-deployment of 'a huge block of low-cost, [green] hydroelectric power generated north of Niagara Falls [pictured].' They're being creative to promote a new king of economic development in Western New York: the kind that brings as many jobs per green Megawatt as possible.
Many economic development officials believe the power is one of the region's best tools for reinvigorating the regional economy. Because it's so cheap [and green] to generate, the power can be sold to companies for a fraction of the cost of other suppliers. That makes it potent bait to lure companies and help firms already in the area expand their operations.For the future, Western New York State also has the option of encouraging offshore wind farms on Lake Ontario, as Canada is about to do;...but, one green job-producing step at a time, as they say.
Much of the power is propping up dying industries and lavish corporations with excessive subsidies, a Buffalo News investigation found last year. A 2001 study commissioned by the state Power Authority reached a similar conclusion, determining that 85 percent of the hydropower could be put to more effective use.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, a leading advocate for making smarter use of Niagara hydropower, hailed the administration's move.
''This is a great opportunity to get low-cost hydropower to those businesses, in both the old and new economy, that have the greatest potential for job growth. The one thing we have is cheap power that can give us a competitive advantage over virtually any other [local] economy in the nation,'' he said.
Here's the money quote:
The authority sells power to some 100 companies at about one-quarter the market rate, which in 2006 saved the recipients an estimated $180 million. Just 10 companies get two- thirds of the power and savings, however, most of them industries that receive the hydroelectricity because they were customers of the private generating plants in the 1950s.
One of the examples cited are the Olin and Occidental chemical plants in Niagara Falls, NY, which are allocated "29 percent of the region's low-cost power allocation while employing just 1 percent of the workers in the companies participating in the program." This is nothing surprising really. A very high level of worker productivity is what one would expect for most any US chemical operation, because such plants are highly automated, and can generate a high revenue stream with a small, well educated and trained workforce.
The point is, when regional unemployment is high, and prospects only getting worse in the face of a national economic recession, you need to leverage the green opportunities.
For Western New York State, green power is the only big lever they've got...aside from drinking water that would make any Atlanta resident jealous...aside from great housing stock...and aside from great hunting and fishing and a beautiful landscape.
Continuing with the money quote:
In 2006, Olin and Occidental enjoyed discounts worth an estimated $53 million for a combined work force of just 418. That works out to more than $126,000 per job.
Many other recipients enjoy discounts that, over the lifetime of their contracts, far exceed the $35,000 per job benchmark used by the federal government to determine how much public money should be spent for job creation.
There's lots more to read in the full coverage, so please check out Buffalo News.