Invest Buffalo Niagara (InBN)—the nonprofit, privately funded economic development organization representing the eight-counties of Western New York—officially unveiled the Western New York Industrial Real Estate Development Strategy, an initiative intended to help reshape the future economic development prospects of the region. The analysis, undertaken by the global commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark, is comprised of a comprehensive evaluation of existing industrial site activity, inventory, and development opportunities within the region. The study also identifies and explores additional forward-thinking trends, market needs, and opportunities for Western New York to better position for long-term business attraction and economic gain.
Key aspects of the overall study addressed the scoring of existing buildings to determine their potential and readiness for large industrial projects and brownfield development, as well the reconversion to other usages or for demolition. The report appraised and highlighted local advantages in terms of workforce, location, and business environment, and the level in which such attributes assist in the attraction of manufacturing facilities, warehouses, distribution and logistics, and data center projects. Western New York business operating costs were also quantified and paralleled with benchmark peer communities, while existing greenfield sites were examined to determine their potential for the hosting of future large industrial projects.
The area’s low industrial rate of under 4% means businesses looking to relocate to the area have difficulty finding a property that suits their needs. Buffalo Niagara has added just two million square feet of industrial space over the past five years. Pittsburgh has added 4 million square feet, Greensville added 20 million square feet, and logistics-hub Columbus has added over 30 million square feet.
“An honest look at our real estate and site supply and how it has impacted our region’s competitiveness for advanced manufacturing projects over the last several years led us to this critical initiative,” said Doug Dimitroff, chair, Invest Buffalo Niagara. “The comprehensive nature of this strategy are key tools that will certainly help light our path toward future economic prosperity, industrial attractiveness, and job creation.”
The newly unveiled strategy includes a comprehensive 300-page report detailing data and inputs drawn from substantial outreach, including nearly 40 local interviews and focus groups, over 40 real estate visits and tours, evaluation of more than 20 manufacturing subsectors, and engagement of multiple national site selectors. The analysis and corresponding report focuses on existing site inventory availability as related to the needs of modern manufacturing and distribution companies, while also exploring the issues of industrial node and corridor underutilization, the prospects and realities of retail repurposing, and the intricacies of accelerating development to meet modern demand.
“What we learned is that many companies and national real estate professionals are aware of the positive attributes that our region has to offer, such as our strategic location and low-cost energy,” said Ken Kujawa, board of investors member for Invest Buffalo Niagara and chair of the organization’s Industrial Site Availability Taskforce. “However, we have a huge opportunity to address Western New York’s limited inventory of available industrial real estate and take on this issue in a cohesive, collaborative fashion, so as to meet the breakneck pace of modern business decision-making and development.”
“The main objective of this initiative has been to better understand the industrial real estate assets of our region, the existing availability and quality of sites, the development pipeline, and how it all positions us in comparison to competing markets,” said Thomas Kucharski, president and chief executive officer of Invest Buffalo Niagara. “These findings suggest that Buffalo Niagara has already made strides in successfully raising the region’s public profile within the national and global real estate scene. Given that we are on the radar, now it is time to band together in an even more unified fashion to bring additional inventory online in a smart and rapid manner.”