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Alphonso O'Neil-White, left, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, shakes on the deal with Denny Oklak, chairman and CEO of Duke Realty Corp.

Righting the Ship

   In August, Buffalo and Niagara Falls metro area was named the most affordable housing market in the nation among metros with populations over half a million people. The median price of homes that sold in Buffalo during the second quarter of 2005 was $75,000.
   Even as troubles at Delphi and other area manufacturers contribute to the steady loss of manufacturing jobs in the state as a whole, a new generation of projects is regenerating Buffalo. Among them is the purchase of a 415,000-sq.-ft. (38,554-sq.-m.) plant by Toronto-based Contract Pharmaceuticals Ltd. to employ 230 in the manufacture of products for Bristol-Myers Squibb and other pharmaceutical companies.
   (That doesn't mean Bristol-Myers Squibb is lying down: The company is in the midst of investing $100 million in biotech manufacturing and chemical facilities on its Syracuse campus, first established in 1943. The facility comprises 75 buildings occupying 1.3 million sq. ft. (120,770 sq. m.). The company spends approximately $2.5 million in taxes annually, and its 800-person payroll amounts to more than $50 million.)
   Further symbolizing a town on the re-make, a downtown Buffalo brownfield was chosen from more than 130 reviewed sites by BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York for the location of its new corporate headquarters and operations center, which will hold 1,300 employees and could have an economic impact of $1.9 billion. Set for completion in 2007, the $86.3-million project will contain 450,000 sq. ft. (41,805 sq. m.) of space. Duke Realty Corp. will develop the facility. BlueCross officials credited the location's suitability for construction, parking facilities, accessibility and ancillary services for employees as deciding factors in the site selection. Incorporated into the design is the landmark 1848 stone fa┴ade of the original Gas Works facility on the site
   "We envisioned a landmark building that is distinctive, efficient, and flexible," said Alphonso O'Neil-White, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. "The result will be a building that recalls the golden age of Buffalo as the building's features reflect past works from Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Fredrick Law Olmsted, and design elements from Buffalo's City Hall, the grain elevators along the Niagara River, and the lighthouse."
   Significantly, the project's LEED goals may qualify it for some of those new state tax credits for green buildings. Also, the organization's current headquarters has been purchased by Canisius College, for conversion into classroom and office space.
   Remediation of a different kind is behind another Buffalo company's growth. As documented early in 2005 by The Buffalo News, West Metal Works produces steel walls for the Bechtel Corp.'s $6-billion cleanup operation at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. The walls form the exterior of two melters, encased in concrete, that will be used to transform liquid nuclear waste into "vitrified" radioactive glass. As a result of the contract, which ended in September, West added 35 new jobs, and was expected to keep on a large number of those positions as the result of further work with Bechtel.

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