Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Niagara University to announce a $1.4 million investment in the university’s new Academic Innovation Hub. The new hub is poised to help train the next generation of leaders in Western New York and will create a pipeline for economic, workforce, and social development from the university to the downtown corridor in Niagara Falls. Gillibrand helped secure this significant investment in the end-of-year spending package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 and brought home a total of more than $16 million for critical local projects across Western New York. Gillibrand’s investment will help take this project, which will be located at the historic First Congregational United Church of Christ, to the finish line. Senator Gillibrand was joined by Mayor Robert Restaino, County Legislator Jeffrey Elder, and Executive Vice President of Niagara University Dr. Debra Colley.
“The historic Bridge District plays a vital role in New York’s rich history and deserves a community center that meets the needs of the entire community. There is so much potential right here in Niagara Falls, which is why I fought tooth and nail to bring $1.4 million home to help complete the Academic Innovation Hub,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This important community center will provide workforce development and educational opportunities, English as a Second Language classes, and early childhood development support for residents in every corner of the city. The outstanding opportunities provided by the Hub will connect residents to jobs and serve as a gateway to new business and culture to the downtown corridor.”
“The investment into this academic hub is a direct investment into our City,”said Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino. “To provide a place for our residents to gain access to resources focused on developing and sharpening their life skills is pivotal in improving their lives. This will help tackle problems our families face whether with finances, literacy, or childcare. At the same time, helping build foundational pieces for future business opportunities. We thank Senator Gillibrand for securing this money and helping our City’s continued effort to build up our workforce.”
“We would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for her support of Niagara University’s plans to create an Academic Innovation Hub for workforce development training programs,” said Niagara County Chairwoman Rebecca Wydysh. “One of the seven goals identified in Niagara County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy is to improve educational opportunities to ensure a highly skilled workforce. This project fits right in with our objective to identify skills gaps for key industries and to develop workforce training programs to fill those gaps.”
“The initial offerings this program would make available in data analytics, cybersecurity, childhood education, and supply chain management have been identified as in demand occupations in Niagara County and Western New York, and will complement the offerings made available by other area educational institutions that do not presently offer programs in these areas,” said Niagara County Commissioner of Economic Development, Michael Casale.
“We are extremely grateful to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for her support and dedication to the revitalization and growth of Niagara Falls, as well as the Niagara Buffalo region,” said Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “We are witness to the tangible signs of the momentum building in the region, and this federal funding takes that momentum to a new level as we work together to bring economic, workforce, and social development, in concert with impactful academic and career development for our students. This is only the beginning, but we are beginning to see progress in our community, and I look forward to working with the entire community to create opportunities for growth, development and investment for the residents of Niagara Falls and in our region.”
The Academic Innovation Hub will be located in the heart of the north end of the City of Niagara Falls in the Bridge District and is set to be completed by the year 2024. The Hub is just one part of Niagara University’s seven-year strategic plan and commitment to help revitalize the city of Niagara Falls. Today, nearly one in four Niagara Falls residents live below the poverty line, and the Bridge District is an economically distressed area. The Hub will serve as a pipeline for opportunity in key job sectors, including cybersecurity, biotech, food, hospitality, and tourism. This important center will also provide workforce development training and classes that offer industry-recognized credentials to provide students with a pathway to direct employment or a post-secondary degree. The new center will also provide residents opportunities to attend speaker events, concerts, art shows, and community meetings. In addition to the federal funding Senator Gillibrand obtained, this project was recently awarded $1.1 million in state funding through the New York State Department of State and Empire State Development.