January 10, 2012
By: Larry Rulison, Business Writer
Source: Times Union
ALBANY — One of the most ambitious initiatives announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address was his $1 billion economic development package for Buffalo.
Cuomo cited the success of the Capital Region and the massive investments the state has made here in nanotechnology research and semiconductor manufacturing. He called Albany a model for Buffalo, where the governor envisions $5 billion in private investment and thousands of new jobs being created by his plan.
Local business leaders say such success is not out of the reach for Buffalo, whose own business community is hopeful for the future after newfound economic success despite a 28 percent poverty rate in the city and high unemployment.
F. Michael Tucker, president of the Center for Economic Growth, the Albany-based economic development group, says state spending on Buffalo will have a ripple effect across upstate.
"What's good for Albany is good for Buffalo, and what's good for Buffalo is good for Albany," Tucker said. "It's all one upstate economy."
The Capital Region has become the envy of regions across the United States in recent years with the growth and increasing importance of the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to the world's semiconductor industry and the $4.6 billion computer chip plant being built by GlobalFoundries.
State subsidies for the two sites, and for IBM in East Fishkill, which has research partnerships with both the college and GlobalFoundries, have totaled several billion dollars over the past 10 years, laying the cornerstone for a high-tech economy that could alter the region's fortunes over the next 30 to 40 years.
Tucker says the key for Buffalo's success will be long-range planning for what can at times be a rocky road.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint," Tucker says his advice to Buffalo would be. "Focus on your strengths. Diversify. You've got to put your eggs in more than one basket."
Indeed, it does appear that that is what Buffalo is trying to do with its own economy, which contracted in the 1970s and 1980s with the loss of the steel industry.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the main business advocacy group in that region, has identified five targeted industries, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, life sciences, logistics and professional services. Andrew Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, says it's unclear exactly how the governor's plan would be implemented at this point. But "it's easy to get lost in those details and miss the enormous commitment from the highest level of state government this is for Buffalo's future," he said. "It's an exciting opportunity."
The Capital Region is already having a considerable impact on Buffalo, especially its high-tech economy. Officials at the NanoCollege say the school works with 150 Buffalo-area firms, and are in "ongoing discussions" with new partners on research, including the University at Buffalo for health care and clean energy.
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