The Buffalo Billion Momentum: What comes first, funding or strategy?

What came first, $1 billion in state-based backing or the brains behind a competitive strategy? That’s the question that comes to mind with a recent blog post by Tom Kucharski, president and CEO, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, “The Buffalo Billion Momentum.” Kucharski asserts the billion-dollar investment from Albany is both a validation of its existing strategy and a single component of the region’s multifaceted inventory of assets.

In my hometown of Rochester, politicians and economic development officials alike bemoan what they perceive as unfair share of monies from Albany to New York’s municipalities; Buffalo is a regular target of such comparisons. Over the past several years, Rochester has placed significant bets on the rehabilitation and renovation of Eastman Business Park to serve as an engine of growth and attraction for businesses, jobs and investors. This massive single property, coupled with intensive workforce alignment programs and industry-specific targeting, comprised Rochester’s future-facing strategy. It could be argued that Rochester overemphasized efforts on a single asset whereas Buffalo developed a comprehensive and integrated regional strategy.

As I reviewed Kucharski’s Buffalo-based proof points, however, I couldn’t help but ask, “What does Buffalo have that Rochester doesn’t?” Workforce development programs? Check. Entrepreneurial opportunities? Check. Public-private partnerships? Check. Central proximity to major markets? Check. Outstanding entertainment, arts and culture, colleges and universities? Check. $1 billion? Nope.

These conditions make it difficult not to take seriously Rochester’s concerns over unfair allocations of state-based dollars. Regardless, fiscal, social and economic pressures make it very difficult to define what makes for a successful regional strategy; past benchmarks rarely pass muster when looking ahead to new realities. Lastly, while Kucharski champions strategy, his post ultimately ends up selling prospective businesses on the millions of the dollars made possible by Albany.

Buffalo Niagara Enterprise Blog | Economic Development Discussions

by Tom Kucharski, president and CEO

It’s been two years since New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the allocation of a billion-dollar investment – the “Buffalo Billion” – during his January 2012 “State of the State” address.Buffalo Billion Logo 2

It could have been just another political maneuver. But this time was different.

Today, that promise is coming to fruition with vigorous development and unprecedented job growth in Buffalo Niagara. The Buffalo Billion:

  • Is a strategy – not a silver bullet – that rewards growth-oriented development in focused, forward-looking fields like genomics, clean energy and advanced manufacturing and results in progressive projects like RiverBend
  • Wraps training and education around high-skill jobs, via the Buffalo Niagara Advanced Training Institute, to ensure our workforce is ready when expanding and relocating businesses open their doors here
  • Promotes opportunities for entrepreneurs through high-stakes competition for new ideas and new businesses – like 43North, with…

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