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Yahoo! It's a lock for Lockport (we hope)

   Although one suspects this may not be the answer for our host of unemployed autoworkers,
Yahoo! may create as many as 125 jobs, many of which are supposed to pay in the $50,000-a-year
range, at a new data center in Lockport.

   Town officials, wary of giving the big build-up to the project in a region that has seen
all too many bogus development schemes, and also compelled to clam up by a Yahoo!
confidentiality agreement, kept "Project Pilgrim" hush-hush for about three months. Thursday,
the digging of reporters, the need to schedule public meetings and the natural tendency of
politicians to self promote led to the lid coming off.

   The company won't say it has chosen Lockport, despite having submitted applications for
site plan approval and tax breaks. And town officials emphasized they have applications, not a
done deal.

   But in contrast to Lockport's Walmart project, which took more than three years of town red tape and a year and a half of litigation, the town seems prepared to whoop this one through in a few
weeks.

   For one thing, the site is in the town's own industrial park, which cuts down on the number
of potentially annoyed neighbors. For another, the town is scheduling special meetings of its
Planning Board and Industrial Development Agency instead of waiting for the usual date to roll
around on the calendar.

   It was the town's willingness to do this that played a key role in apparently winning the
project. The much-maligned New York Power Authority came up with 15 megawatts of almost-free
electricity for the power-sucking banks of computers that power the search engines and other
applications of Yahoo!

   And the cliche of having a "shovel-ready site" finally showed its usefulness, as a company
in a hurry met a town with a sizable piece of unpolluted vacant land well supplied with water
and sewer lines, roads and other utilities.

   It's nice to see that the planets might have finally aligned for a significant development.
Of course, all this seemed to have happened two years ago for a similar project, the HSBC data
center in Cambria.

   The field where that ballyhooed $1 billion project was supposed to have been built is now
on its way to producing what looks like a nice crop of wheat this planting season. But perhaps
the Town of Lockport and Yahoo! can grow some jobs to support local families.

      -- Thomas J. Prohaska

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