After languishing for more than a generation, Bethlehem Steel rises again

By James Fink
Buffalo Business First

A view of the TMP Technologies construction site. (Joed Viera/Buffalo Business First)

For more than a generation, the 1,300 acres of the former Bethlehem Steel Co. operations in Lackawanna stood abandoned.

Now the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, son of a Bethlehem Steel worker, are overseeing the remaking of a significant portion of the property into a choice location for private-sector investments.

The transformation began four years ago when the ECIDA, through its Buffalo & Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp., began negotiating to acquire 147 acres that fronted on Route 5. That allowed infrastructure improvements, about $5 million, to clear the way for new development.

Among the changes:

• Shifting a rail line from Route 5 visibility farther back on the property.

• Building a pedestrian and biking path along Route 5.

• Extending Dona Street into the property.

• Removing a worn security fence to open up the property.

"Just the visual impact from removing the fence was huge," said John Cappellino, ECIDA president and CEO. "Now, when people drive by (on Route 5), they can see what's happening here."
What the public will see

• Construction of TMP Technologies, a $23 million, 230,000-square-foot plant where 150 people will work when the building is completed next year. TMP, with headquarters on Northland Avenue in Buffalo, makes the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, among many other products. The company will remain headquartered on Northland Avenue.

• Welded Tube LLC, a Canadian steel maker

• Sucro Sourcing LLC, a sugar producer based in Coral Gables, Fla., leased a series of silos and warehouse space earlier this year in Lackawanna's Gateway Trade Zone complex, which is on a portion of Bethlehem Steel property.

• Uniland Development Co. is negotiating with the ECIDA to build a spec building at Route 5 and Dona Street.

Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc. — the Richfield, Ohio-based company that owns much of the Bethlehem property — sold 147 acres to the ECIDA. Now the ECIDA is negotiating to purchase 82 more acres from Tecumseh. That would give the ECIDA 227 acres and increase its foothold by 56% on Bethlehem land.

"This is all a matter of using public-sector dollars to prime the private-sector's development pump," Cappellino said.

Taken together, the projects have helped bring some, but not all, of the Bethlehem Steel property back to life. Another 486 acres is being remediated and prepped for shovel-ready development sites.

"The fact that companies like Welded Tube and TMP have invested in the land is opening the doors for others to give the Bethlehem property a serious look," Cappellino said. "The risk factor has been answered."

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.