Tonawanda News — First the jobs were cut back, then they began disappearing all together.
When Spaulding Fibre finally declared bankruptcy in the 1990s, the longtime company that occupied a giant swath in the City of Tonawanda and was at one point its largest employer, sent thousands fleeing to find other ways to make ends meet.
And after the company that produced circuit boards for transistor radios shut down, it left behind the dozens of acres it occupied with more than 800,000 square-feet of buildings, and massive pollution spread across the land on its former site.
The city was left to clean up its mess.
It took $20 million in federal, state and county aid, another $700,000 from the city, and years to make it happen — most of that time spent on demolishing structures and environmental remediation.
By late last year, the infrastructure work began for a long-envisioned business park. As of last week the city etched ever closer to completing a template for it, bringing the potential for large scale job creation full circle, with water and sewer lines in place along with newly paved roads, sidewalks and curbing.
City Engineer Jason LoMonaco said all that is left to do before two- to four-acre parcels are offered up for sale to interested parties is the completion of some drainage and landscaping work.
“The first phase began in 2006, we didn’t have enough money to do it all,” he said. “We targeted the worst of the worst first. Overall, it’s been a huge project and it’s important to emphasize the tremendous amount of financial assistance from the county, state and the federal government. As it went along we were able to get the grants and complete a pretty complicated project that led to additional funding opportunities.”
Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said funding was easier to come by in part because of the make-up of a steering committee that has met bi-weekly for years.
With state and county officials on that committee and a part of the the decision-making process, communication was easier and piecing together the complexities of the project became more viable.
“I just picked up the baton from Jack Gallagher,” Pilozzi said of the past Tonawanda mayor.
But since that time he has become an integral piece to the collective group, hashing out a vision that he feels will one day pay off, when the 46-acre business park is filled with new employers.
“We decided that we would continue to work with the federal and state governments to basically put this property into sellable condition,” Pilozzi said.
As an added incentive the city will offer real estate brokers a larger percentage of properties sold to what officials hope will be a bustling testament to a previously unusable plot of land. The decision to make it a business park in the first place was forged by the fact that it received restricted residential status, meaning there would still be limitations on what could be built due to the past environmental incongruities.
The city is now working with Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for marketing material and is preparing to begin an aggressive campaign in August, according to Pilozzi.
“It will be a plus for the city once we put some taxable business on the road,” he said.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext 4115.