Horrigan sees regional water, waterfront development as keys

This is the second of a three-part series concerning issues discussed by Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, county Industrial Development Agency Director Mike Metzger and Christina P. Orsi, regional director for Western New York Regional Office of Empire State Development at the OBSERVER, regarding development in western New York.

There is progress being made in Chautauqua County; just listen to County Executive Vince Horrigan and you can almost see it.

Horrigan, along with Chautau-qua County Industrial Develop-ment Agency Chairman Michael Metzger and Christina P. Orsi, the regional director of the Western New York Regional Office of Empire State Development, which includes Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.

Horrigan talked about progress in Jamestown with the linking of trails and also support of a national comedy center. He added there is parking by the train station and a link of trails and parks.

“That whole trail talks about a walking and bicycling trail and a comedy center which is looking to bring in 125,000 people with a $26 million impact,” he explained. “That thing is funded. … That’s an example in the Jamestown area.

“What it is doing is bringing in a Hamister group really looking at a hotel, a $10 million private investment. Now there’s another group looking at a hotel in Celoron. This piggybacks with the private sector who is looking out there seeing opportunity.”

As for Dunkirk, Horrigan said the waterfront is what he and CCIDA Director Kevin Sandvidge see as the top focus.

“We have the seawall project, we have the (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program) now that’s looking at all that revitalization,” Horrigan added. “We’re going to continue to focus and push this waterfront development. I hear it from community leaders, business leaders. Obviously the Boardwalk out there, the concerts, this is what young people come and see it as a vibrant community.

“This is the step everybody wants to see, stuff go up. They don’t want to see planning, but you have to have a plan. You’ve got to have data or you’re not going anywhere.”

Horrigan was asked what the area’s big momentum builder is.

“I think it has to be the waterfront,” Horrigan replied. “There will still be manufacturing, we will have businesses in here. A year from now, we’re going to have a water project that will enable more development along Route 5. … The biggest aspect is a solid plan that can attract capital investment. We’ve got to have that capital investment. We can have the greatest plan, but without that, we’re not there.”

Horrigan was asked if there is enough public access to Lake Erie in the county.

“This LWRP is going to look at that. That is a good question, I can’t answer it directly. We may need, depending on the plan and where recreational areas are, we may need more public access,” he replied. “We redo the waterfront, but that waterfront, when you look at the concerts and you look at what’s going on and you look at the Boardwalk and you can picture a great place to go down there. Fun activities. If we get the SUNY 20/20 Great Lakes Science and Research Center, that will be huge. We are talking to people across from the Clarion. I would envision maybe some development over there in those old buildings. All we have to do is get it started with some investment capital and people will jump on it.

“We have the new Whispering Giant up and running, so I’m optimistic.”

The local wine industry and tourism are growth agents of the future, according to the first-year county executive.

“We replace a business where product demand fell through the floor and where they just weren’t going to be here. So get them out and we’ll get somebody else in here. That, I think, can be very good,” he added. “I think we have to rally around the waterfront and tourism. We’ve got to figure that out while we do these other things.”

Metzger cited growth in existing businesses.

“If you look, there’s been a lot of hiring in the area businesses in the last year. It’s not just bringing in new business, it’s giving the businesses that are here the opportunity for growth,” he stated.

A necessary part of growth is having a measurable plan, according to Horrigan.

“I’ll tell you what you’re going to see in my budget presentation. I think you’re going to see some real metrics. We’re going to set very realistic but challenging goals in employment, in jobs,” he explained. “We’re not going to say we’re doing great without the data to prove we’re doing great. You should be able to look and say ‘hey, you’re doing great.’ I shouldn’t have to convince you.

“You’re going to start seeing that we’re going to put resources ahead, we’re going to have a return on investment while maintaining fiscal responsibility. We’re going to be on the offense here, I can’t play defense, we can’t play defense here, all we’ll do is keep shrinking. … Let’s just understand and go from there and I think we are with the smart growth.”

Coming Tuesday: Water district gets closer. Send comments on this story to gsnyder@observertoday.com