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Strengthening neighborhood business districts will be a key priority of city economic development officials, Mayor Anthony M. Masiello told a civic group Thursday.

Masiello outlined the city's Strategic Plan for Community Economic Development during a luncheon sponsored by the Rotary Club of Buffalo in HSBC Arena.

The blueprint includes a citywide initiative designed to revitalize nearly 20 neighborhood commercial districts by providing loans and technical assistance to small businesses, along with help in trying to attract new businesses.

The administration said a concerted effort will be made to assist businesses in so-called "Live Zones" -- commercial districts located throughout the city. The mayor said the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the city's main development agency, will aggressively market its micro-loan program and other programs geared toward small businesses.

Most of the strategies outlined in the new report have been previously announced, including a new small-business assistance center that will open in the former Apollo Theater at 1346 Jefferson Ave. The mayor said the city is also moving forward with a business retention program that will involve on-site visits by city staffers to more than 800 companies this year.

Masiello added that the city continues to market its "Byte Belt," a downtown corridor that is home to about 40 information-technology companies.

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