Buffalo Niagara: A Manufacturing Moment?

Tom Kucharski, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise

An April 2012 report published by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings examines a resurgence that some are calling the “manufacturing moment” from the standpoint of its staying power and geography.  Elements of that report, combined with BNE’s experience, reinforce my belief that the commitment of public and private resources in this sector will produce growth opportunities for our region.

As the Brookings report confirms there has been in recent years a re-shoring of manufacturing by U.S. companies, driven in part by growing wage scales in emerging countries.  Mid-western states in particular have seen an increase in machinery and auto manufacturing.  While the advanced manufacturing in our region has been very diversified, we have seen trends in steel and steel processing, packaging and opportunities for high tech manufacturing.

While the mid-west has experienced more of this re-shoring to date, northeastern states and regions have compelling assets and are developing tools that are growing their competitive advantage.  Consider some of these examples in our state and region:

  • Affordable & available real estate – our market has over six million square feet available and an average price per square foot that is $6.55 less than the U.S. average.  We also boast 10 shovel ready certified sites whose benefits are coveted by projects driven by speed to market.
  • With 10.8% of our total employment in the manufacturing sector, we offer a motivated and productive workforce, highly trained in engineering, physical sciences and the construction trades.
  • Buffalo Niagara is cross-border community with seven international ports, two of the largest Foreign Trade Zones in the U.S., an advanced transportation infrastructure, and easy access to major U.S. and Canadian markets.
  • Contrary to what many would think New York State has low taxes on high tech manufacturing.  The state is also home to multiple sites ideal for high-tech and Nano-tech manufacturing, one of them right here in Genesee County.
  • Manufacturing companies who invest in our region can be eligible for a wide array of valuable incentives, one of which can’t be offered by the majority of our competitors – clean, reliable, low-cost hydropower.

Our growing competitive advantages run much deeper and include our strong supply chain, work ethic and manufacturing heritage.  So if this manufacturing moment exists, as we think it does, what are we doing to take advantage of it?

Advanced manufacturing is one of six key strategies in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s billion dollar commitment to Buffalo.  It will be supported by the development of the state-of-the-art Buffalo Niagara Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness.  The institute will focus on applied research services and workforce training while providing export assistance and services to develop process excellence.

In our current fiscal BNE anticipates spending in excess of $70,000 on a very targeted advanced manufacturing campaign consisting of advertising & public relations, direct mail, e-communications, events in Canada and the development of new advanced manufacturing mini-site hosted on our website.  Specific companies are being targeted based on their size, geographic location and product.

Our public partners across all eight counties continue to commit significant resources to the development of sites for us to market to our targets.  This is one of the most important contributions the public sector can make to the success of attracting manufacturing opportunities to our region.

Is the moment real and will these efforts be worthwhile?  Only time will tell.  Since our inception BNE has supported 89 advanced manufacturing project wins that have created and retained over 12,000 jobs while investing more than $1.4 billion in our region.  The direct and indirect economic impact from only 12 of these projects that have come to our community since 2010 is $607.9 million.  The potential that exists and the impact of the results have me convinced that manufacturing will be an important part of our future economic success.

About Jenna Kavanaugh

Director, Marketing & Communications Buffalo Niagara Enterprise

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