BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Sen. Chuck Schumer visited Buffalo on Monday advocating for the region’s advanced manufacturing proposal, which was selected as a finalist for the Build Back Better Challenge, a federally run grant competition.

Empire State Development Corporation’s advanced manufacturing cluster project was named a finalist in 2021 after 529 proposals were submitted from across the country. The final application for the grant was due in March and 20 to 30 projects will be selected to receive up to $100 million dollars to support and industry sector.

The project has received regional and statewide backing and secured nearly $1.5 million in funds from New York State, the City of Buffalo and other partners.

The proposal outlines other organizations and efforts to boost the local workforce and economy, including the Northland Workforce Training Center on Buffalo’s East Side. This labor initiative aims to close the skills gap and provide employment tracks to Western New Yorkers. The advanced manufacturing proposal would work alongside these workforce development programs to bolster the economic growth on the East Side.

Empire Development also outlined their strategy to work with other local organizations such as Goodwill of Western new York, community colleges, BOCES and other job training groups. They also say they will work alongside University at Buffalo Innovation Hub, 43North, Launch NY, Startup NY and WNY Incubator Network to bring other start-up groups to Western New York.

“You locate your business in New York City or San Francisco, within six months, someone is going to try to steal your best employees away by offering them more money,” Schumer said. “Western New York has a reputation: when you work for a company, you get paid a decent wage, you stay there. And that’s a big selling point.”

The group plans to re-develop the region using the industrial footprint left behind from previous manufacturing plants. They sited the state’s investment in the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawanna as a model for their project.

Schumer said this award could fast-track Buffalo to becoming a global tech hub. His goal is to bring jobs back to Western New York, after manufacturing jobs left the region.

“The workforce is improving. We have great skillset here,” he said. “We were always the center of manufacturing, and that’s [why] thinking and training and knowledge [are] still here. And I’ve never seen a community more eager. When we make this pitch, it isn’t going to be like any other place. We are the place that probably wants this the most.”

In 2021, Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro region had 50,200 manufacturing jobs, which was an increase from 2020. According to the project plan, advanced manufacturing represents 10 percent of the Western New York economy.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.