Seneca Nation of Indians leaders, acting on a retail feasibility study completed this summer, are considering the next phase of plans that could lead to a 400,000-square-foot outlet mall on a 108-acre site just off Exit 58 of the state Thruway near here.

If the project continues forward in the 2012-2014 presidential administration of Richard E. Nephew, it’s expected to create an estimated 250 construction jobs and 750 full- and part-time retail jobs when fully built out.

“If I am elected president, building this outlet mall and creating these jobs and this regional economic development will be a top priority of my administration,” Nephew said today.

The retail feasibility study was announced today by Nation President Robert Odawi Porter, Council Chairman Nephew and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.

It’s been determined that the best return for the Nation would come if the project is not built on restricted fee land. In this way, the county and state governments can benefit, as can all the people in the region and the Nation’s future employees.

“This is the sort of major retail project, especially in an area that lacks such a centerpiece, that my administration and Council Chairman Nephew have worked hard to bring forward,” Porter said. “This is a clear example of how the Nation seeks to diversify its economy beyond tobacco, gasoline and gaming in ways that benefit the entire region and especially the Seneca people.”

The 108-acre site, currently owned by the Seneca Gaming Corp. and locally known as the “bean field,” is in Hanover, NY. It’s at Exit 58 of the New York State Thruway, close to the Nation’s sovereign Cattaraugus Territory.

By way of comparison, the Fashion Outlets Mall in the Town of Niagara is 526,000 square feet and employs 1,000 full- and part-time workers.

“The Seneca Nation’s home is Western New York and the benefits of our investments stay here,” said Nephew. “For years, our government’s policy has been to create new economic development for our people that helps all of Western New York. This will be a key effort of my administration.”

As part of the Nation’s ongoing development planning efforts, the bean field site has been identified for its potential as a Regional Commercial Center for the area, capitalizing on its high visibility from 1-90, easy access off of Exit 58, and between 30,000 to 40,000 average daily vehicle trips passing the site.

The first phase of the project included the retail feasibility analysis, prepared by a leading national retail expert. It was completed in July 2012 and concluded that the project area at full build-out has the potential to support approximately 400,000 square feet of gross leasable area of retail and restaurant space to create a strong outlet center hub. It would also capture a larger share of the region’s visitor base by elevating the profile of current attractions in the vicinity.

A similar project, underway near Charlotte, NC is roughly the same size as projected in the Nation’s market study. According to the Charlotte Observer:

The new development in Mecklenburg County is expected to generate about 300 construction jobs, plus 900 full- and part-time retail jobs at the outlets once the center opens. The center is expected to generate more than $10 million annually in tax revenue, according to the developer. Given Mecklenburg County’s 7.25 percent sales tax rate, that implies the center is expected to generate about $138 million worth of sales per year.

“This is an exciting announcement from President Porter and Council Chairman Nephew,” said Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards. “It is part of a cooperative effort that has gone on for two years between Chautauqua County and the Seneca Nation.

“This will be a major source of jobs in the Irving area, plus an attraction that will take visitors off I-90 onto routes 5 and 20, helping the existing businesses both here and on the Cattaraugus Territory,” said Edwards.  “I also thank our Industrial Development Agency and Department of Planning and Economic Development for their direct work with the Department of Planning at the Seneca Nation.”

“This project is certainly regionally significant, and we are delighted that it is finally public. This shows what good neighbors can do when working together.”

Advantages of the Nation’s project include job creation; new development in an area of the region that is currently underserved by retail, lodging, and entertainment choices; improved ability to attract tourist and commuter travelers along major transportation routes to stop and stay in the area; and, it will encourage the retention, expansion and attraction of businesses that would benefit from an outlet center nearby.

Phase II for the Nation includes due diligence and seeking financing. The Nation’s Council must approve the project.

            The Nation’s economy already generates nearly $1 billion in revenue, provides 4,400 jobs and produces an economic impact on New York State of $640 million, according to an economic study released earlier this year.

The Nation’s economy has an impact approaching that of all the region’s independent colleges and universities combined and has more than twice the total economic impacts of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres.

In a sign the local economy is improving and the Senecas’ economy along with it, current employment totals almost 5,200, with 2,700 at Seneca Niagara Casino, 1,100 at Seneca Allegany, 75 at Buffalo Creek, and 1,300 in the Nation’s government.

The Seneca Nation economy, with total revenues of more than $928 million, created an estimated gross regional product of $565 million in Western New York and $640 million in the state in 2010, the latest reporting year. Statewide, the Nation’s purchasing and hiring resulted in at least $53 million in off-territory excise and sales taxes paid to New York State, mostly from Seneca Gaming employees.

The total demand of the Seneca Nation – spending and payroll – in 2010 was $710.2 million. This includes $188.3 million in infrastructure improvement and capital construction in 2010.

The largest Nation sector is of course Seneca Gaming Corp., which offered 225,000 square feet of gaming space; two resort hotels with 816 rooms; 13 restaurants; 7,954 gaming seats; and $449 million in net revenues in 2010, down from $659 million in 2008 due to the Great Recession.

The outlet mall, like most Seneca businesses, will bring in money from outside Western New York. A majority of the Seneca casinos’ loyalty cardholders travel there from outside the Buffalo-Niagara region: Canada, 5 percent; Pennsylvania, 19 percent; Ohio 15 percent and other regions of New York, 40 percent.