Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 15, 2010

HAPPENING NOW: Fortune 500 company ready to become AES neighbor, state permitting

By Bill Wolcott
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

SOMERSET — A well-known Fortune 500 company — it could be narrowed down to a Fortune 50 company — is planning to put a half-billion dollar project next to the AES plant.

That’s $500 million.

According to a letter to Supervisor Richard Meyers, AES has a potential buyer for the 160-acre site which lies between the coal-burning power plant and Mayer Brothers. The Niagara County Historical Society Babcock House will be protected.

“We have been on the fast track between Rochester and Buffalo,” said consultant Joseph E. Sharkey the vice president of TMNG Global. “This is our primary site. There are some legislative issues pending.”

The secret is being called “Project Oasis.”

The site would house a large data center to meet the information processing needs of the potential buyer. The facility would hold data processing and storage systems as well as offices. It would be managed by a staff of 150 to 200 people.

The Fortune 500 company was referred to as the “Potential buyer,” “This purchaser” and “My client” throughout the course of the Town Board meeting Tuesday.

“I cannot tell you at this time,” said Sharkey, who makes his home in Salt Lake City. “The legislation that’s pending is our only major hurdle at this time for this site being selected. This is a Fortune 500 company. It’s an every-day name company and it’s been board-level approved for this entire project for all five or six sites, internationally. The budget for fast-tracking of all of this has been approved. It’s pretty well focused on going.”

Why Somerset? Sharkey gave four reasons: The climate, clean power, cool environment and a small carbon footprint. He also mentioned the availability of rail transportation. The Fortune 500 company would have use of the AES rails.

“They are a Fortune 50 company, actually,” said Supervisor Richard Meyers. “They are a good company. Hopefully the state does the right thing, Senator (George ) Maziarz is working very hard to see what’s going on over there gets taken care of. There is some legislation that could penalize this company. We hope this legislation gets put where it belongs, and that’s in the garbage.”

They may build one building or several buildings. Currently the company is considering three buildings so that operations can be started while the other buildings are constructed.

“We’re on a very aggressive schedule,” Sharkey said. “We are ready to move. If we knew we could to today, we would have concrete by December.”

The company needs fiber-optic cable and there are major routes that run along the I-90 and two routes along 31. There will be two paths to I-90 and 31.

Meyers applauded the work done by Randy Roeseler and Jon Reimann of AES.

“There is some synergy,” Reimann said. “They are co-locating next to an existing thermal power plat. There’s rail, water, water treatment, renewable energy and back-up power. We’re excited for Niagara County, we’re excited for the town of Somerset, and we hope we can assist to bring this over the goal line.”

Kristin Savard was hired to assist the town staff with site plan engineering review, site-plan performance and engineering questions.

“It’s important for this whole area, this economically depressed area,” Meyers said. “We’ve had one golden-goose egg in our basket and it’s not going to be here forever. We needed to do something to kind of spread that out. This is a wonderful opportunity for the town of Somerset, county and hopefully for New York state.”

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott at 439-9222, ext. 6246.