Tom Kucharski, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise
It was the first week of January 2012 and our community, still brimming with excitement from receiving $100.3 million through the state’s regional economic development process and the announcement of a $375 million SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant, learned from Governor Cuomo in his State of the State Address that he was making an unprecedented commitment of $1 billion in state economic development assistance for Buffalo.
Fast forward through 11 months of research, data collection and analysis, collaborative planning and strategizing, and Governor Cuomo came to town last week to unveil the plan that will guide the state’s investment in our region. I am optimistic about the plan that was announced and the long term impact it can have on our community. I am also excited by the role I see Buffalo Niagara Enterprise playing in ensuring the success of the plan.
The six strategies interwoven into the development plan include three high potential targeted industry clusters and three key enablers important to ensuring the success of the new economy in each priority cluster. Investments in life sciences, manufacturing and tourism sectors will be supported by investments in workforce, entrepreneurship and revitalization. I applaud the strategy developed because I believe it wisely avoids the temptation to use large sums of public resources trying to win one or two “blockbuster” deals. Instead it utilizes the state’s commitment to build a foundation and an infrastructure that will invite outside investment and enhance the development of our existing growth opportunities. The Governor’s commitment of resources is over a five year period. The plan is looking to create an impact for the next twenty-five years.
Each strategy rolled out has a specific initiative that has been identified for the first wave of investment, and a number of talented and dedicated individuals have been selected to work on the implementation of these spending initiatives. I was impressed by the significant number of Cuomo administration commissioners who were present at the announcement of the plan and participated in the bus tour of the region later that day. These state agencies will play meaningful roles in implementing the strategies ad initiatives contained in the plan. The fact that Governor brought them to Buffalo not only to hear the plan, but to see firsthand where it will be implemented is a very clear statement to our community and everyone in his administration that he is serious about making a transformational impact on our upstate economy.
BNE’s involvement in the Buffalo Billion included my participation as a member of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and our research department’s early work with the Brookings Institute, but I see even more work and more opportunities ahead for us. Aggressive marketing outreach will be required to inform the marketplace of the new initiatives being developed while more research will be necessary to identify the most appropriate targets for this message. Focused business attraction efforts will be necessary to successfully attract the companies and talent that will make use of the infrastructure being built while applying the resources available. With 13 years of successful economic development and relationship building under our belt, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is well prepared and very excited to join with our long time partners in state government to meet this new challenge head on.