Monday was a day long in coming but well worth the wait if all goes as planned for the SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator. The day was the official groundbreaking for the construction of the $5.7 million, 21,000 square foot, two-story building.
SUNY Fredonia President Dr. Dennis Hefner served as master of ceremonies for the ceremonial event and led off the speakers.
"We have been anxiously awaiting this ground-breaking ceremony and it's here, finally, and we are so excited about it," Hefner said in getting the proceedings started. "I have had a few people in the community coming up to me saying 'when is this going to get started?' I even had a few say, 'is this another Bass Pro?'
"Well first of all, it's not another Bass Pro and secondly, we're building and we're building right now. It is a milestone for our campus. We believe as a public university we need to be involved in service, both educational service, cultural service and economic development service. This new building is going to accommodate up to 30 startup companies that we're hoping will grow and remain right here in this region helping with economic development."
The success rate after five years for regular startup businesses jumps from 20 percent to 87 percent for startups associated with a university incubator, according to Hefner.
Hefner gave thanks to NYSTAR, the state agency which provided a $604,000 grant, and to the various members of the incubator's advisory board.
He then introduced the first of the nine speakers, New York State Sen. Catharine Young.
"She was involved in helping us secure this site and working with the city of Dunkirk. She has been involved in submitting bills to the legislature for the construction money and she is a great supporter of this campus and this project," Hefner said before Young took to the podium.
"It was about two years ago when the city of Dunkirk, the mayor and Dennis and I got together in Dunkirk to discuss this incubator project. We introduced the idea to Dennis that, hey instead of doing this on the Fredonia State campus, why don't we do this in Dunkirk because there's areas in Dunkirk that need to be revitalized and this makes so much sense from a community standpoint, from an economic development standpoint.
"And you know what, Dennis got it immediately. He knew that the college's mission is to have a community focus, it is to have an economic development focus. So we began on this journey to have this building put here in this part of Dunkirk and it really dovetails into what we have been striving to do here in Dunkirk."
Young recounted the other projects in the downtown and harborfront area and said she was honored to be a part of it. Young went on to thank all the officials involved in securing the funds and the rest of the necessary things the project needed.
"You can see this has been government working together and truly, that's how things should work. We should have partnerships, we should have collaborations, we should have involvement of the community. ... I'm truly proud of all of the efforts, all of the progress."
Before introducing Assemblyman Bill Parment, Hefner told how Parment came to introduce the first bill associated with the incubator.
"I'm delighted to introduce Assemblyman Bill Parment, who is the father of this project," Hefner said as Parment stepped forward.
"I don't think of myself as the father of the project because the person I think had the vision was Dennis Hefner and I think we owe him a round of applause for that vision and his leadership," Parment started. " ... I've always heard the people in Albany particularly talk about the state university having to be an outreach facility to spur economic development in the communities where they're situated and it's very difficult to do. It's much easier said in Albany than is actually done in Fredonia or Dunkirk but Dennis Hefner did see an opportunity to make that a reality and he basically promoted this idea of an incubator and I personally think it's going to be one of the classic examples of the state university helping economic development at the local level."
Hefner introduced Congressman Brian Higgins as someone who also believes very much in economic development.
"He went to bat for this project and this past year secured $150,000 earmarked to support the startup for this incubator," Hefner said of Higgins. "He really went to bat for us in kind of tough budgetary times and we're really appreciative to have him here today."
Higgins pointed out why he thought all were present.
"It's the extraordinary leadership in higher education that's provided the vision for this, the energy for it, and pulling all these resources together, and that's Dennis Hefner," he said. "This SUNY College Fredonia has been recognized nationally as being an extraordinary place and of great value. ... I'm pleased to partner with the public sector, the private sector, all levels of government to help make this a reality.
"It's an easy project to sell on the merits and I'm pleased to join all of you in starting what will be a very, very exciting place that will produce economic benefits moving forward."
County Executive Greg Edwards was introduced by Hefner as someone who helped early to clear the land for the project.
"He offered some of the county equipment to help with that and has provided, through the IDA, that there will be small grants to assist some of these businesses that come in to this new incubator," Hefner said of Edwards.
"It was a no-brainer for me when I had the opportunity to apply some of our resources at the county level to help move this project forward," Edwards said. "And Dennis Hefner is right, we've applied even more resources in actually providing cash incentives, cash money available for these businesses to locate in our temporary incubator and then in our permanent incubator as we go forward."
Assemblyman Joseph Giglio was introduced as another supporter of the project.
"He has fought hard in the legislature to make sure this remained in the budget and that it went forward," Hefner said.
"We're going to make it back together and that's what we do here and that's what makes it so great to be part of the Western New York delegation in the assembly and to be here with my colleagues," Giglio said. "But I say one thing, we can trust SUNY, we can trust all the people here, and if we work together, this part of the state will be the most wonderful to live in again."
As part of SUNY Fredonia, the incubator will be reporting through Kevin Kearns, Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research.
"Not only is this a great opportunity for economic development it's an incredible collaboration between the federal, state, local governments, thanks in large part to our distinguished guests and President Hefner," Kearns said.
Kearns said he has been in the area for about one year, coming from Boston, Mass.
"A lot of my distinguished colleagues said 'what are you doing?' Today represents what I knew and what they don't. You would never find in Boston frankly, the type of collaboration, the type of drive, the type of intelligent decision making that has gotten us to this point."
The last elected official to be introduced by Hefner was Dunkirk Mayor Richard Frey.
"It's my pleasure to introduce a visionary, a person who was bound and determined to make sure that this harborfront area become that all that it could and should be," Hefner said of Frey.
"I think of Dr. Hefner and I think of a gentleman who thinks outside the box, looks at the big picture and says, 'yes, we can do this off campus and make it happen in downtown Dunkirk.' Dr. Hefner, I could never, never, thank you enough in your leadership in bringing this to frutation today," Frey said.
Frey thanked Second Ward Councilman Kevin Muldowney and former Development Director Maclain Berhaupt along with council members past and present who had a role in the project.
"To all of them, I cannot thank you enough for making this happen in the city of Dunkirk. You're all a part of it, you all made it happen.
You look around behind me, you see how much it takes. No one individual can make something happen."
Hefner then called for the ceremonial groundbreaking after which a luncheon was held at Katerina's.
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