A former brownfield located at 20 Liberty Avenue (off of Kensington Avenue) has been transformed into an expanded training center for SMART Local 71 – the local union of International Association of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers (“SMART”). The nearly $1.3 million Empire State Development (ESD)-SMART Local 71 partnership project saw the merging of three separate properties into one state-of-art facility that will provide the necessary resources for apprenticeship training in construction, sheet metal production, and other fabricating industries.
“As we reimagine our economy for a post-pandemic comeback, it’s more important than ever to make sure that success is accessible to all,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “SMART Local 71’s expanded training center is training the next generation of skilled workers to help build the new Buffalo, and will further unleash the full potential of Western New York’s economy connecting people with good paying jobs and ensuring no one falls behind during our recovery.”
In order to pull off the project, SWM 71, Inc. purchased the property on behalf of the union at 20 Liberty Avenue. That purchase allowed for the following:
- Local 71 renovated and reconstructed the two-story 7,200-square-foot building
- It then combined 20 Liberty Avenue with 24 Liberty Avenue to create an expanded, updated training facility
- A third adjacent property at 724 Kensington Avenue was also acquired from the City of Buffalo to be used as additional parking for the renovated structure
“Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 71 committed to making the City of Buffalo our home in 2000. Since then, we have worked, saved, and planned for this expansion, so we can continue our mission of training the next generation of Sheet Metal Workers,” said SMART Local 71 Business Manager Paul Crist. “Our members strive to be the safest, best trained, and most productive workers on any jobsite and with this help we can simulate realistic jobsite conditions for hands on training. I cannot express enough how thankful we are to Empire State Development for partnering with us to make this expansion happen.”
The expansion project allows the union to effectively teach on-site construction experience to sheet metal workers, service technicians, bus operators, engineers, conductors, sign workers, welders, production employees, etc. The facility provides all of the modern-day tools, uequipment, and amenities needed to provide up-to-date continuing education and apprenticeship programs.
The project was made possible thanks to an award of $377,000 through Round 7 of the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process. This grant funding allotment – considered ‘guaranteed capital’ – was enough for the union to secure a loan.
“The transformation of a previously vacant brownfield site into a modern training facility for the members of SMART Local 71 is not just a strategic investment that will strengthen Buffalo’s manufacturing sector, it also advances key goals for the broader New York State economy,” said Kevin Younis, ESD Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner. “The state of the art facility gives meaningful place-making purpose to an abandoned building and underutilized property in the city, and ensures current and future generations of SMART Local 71’s talented, hard-working workforce have the critical training and necessary skills in construction, sheet metal production, and metal fabrication to meet the demands of the industry.”
Those interested in SMART Local 71 and apprenticeships can learn more here.