The “Buffalo Billion”, as it has been dubbed in many circles, has created a great deal of excitement in our region since Governor Cuomo announced it in his State of the State address this past January. It has also generated a lot of questions ranging from “when will the money be available?” and “how will it be spent?” to “where do I sign up to get some?” Last week, Brookings Institute Vice President Bruce Katz was in town and held a number of public and private meetings and discussions that began to put some substance and form around the process of how these resources will be utilized.
As a part of his visit, members of BNE’s research staff and I met privately with Katz and some of the key entities that will be getting this process off the ground. Besides the Brookings Institute, that included representatives from Governor Cuomo’s office, Empire State Development, the University at Buffalo Regional Institute and the University at Buffalo Urban Design Project. A significant amount of data collection is going to be required for a market analysis that will be performed, and the university and BNE will be playing a very active and supportive role in that process.
The WNY Regional Economic Council, in concert with state officials, will also select a consultant to assist in establishing a plan that should identify the critical areas where the $1 billion should be focused and specific initiatives involving programs and spending. I have personally reviewed the request for proposal that will be used to solicit the consultant for this work, and I was very pleased with the scope of work outlined and the deliverables being requested. It is a sound RFP that should hopefully attract a very capable and qualified consultant.
Longer term, once the data collection is done and a consultant is selected, the WNY Council hopes to have some broad priority areas for how the resources should be committed in place later this year. It is an aggressive timeframe, but the sense of urgency is invigorating. Our first meeting with UB officials regarding our data collection work already took place this week.
Thanks to the continued support of our private sector investors, we have succeeded in developing an infrastructure with contemporary and state-of-the-art economic development tools that will enable us to access vital information and present it to our partners and consultants in the most usable and verifiable form.
The BNE will no doubt continue to play an integral role in the work of the council as our community pursues this extraordinary opportunity. And we’ll continue to add postings to keep the community informed accordingly.
Thomas A. Kucharski
President & CEO
Buffalo Niagara Enterprise