By Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes
Decades of limited investment by the state coupled with major employers leaving the region left Buffalo in a dark place.
Prior to 2011, state economic development funding was allocated by the Western New York delegation. The efforts were led by the local representatives with the most seniority in the State Legislature.
I originally preferred this process due to my ascending seniority and the potential to better assist my district by producing significant economic development plans for Buffalo and Western New York.
Sprawl existed with major development projects at the end of highways, stressing and stretching public transportation and infrastructure resources. The old process resulted in Geico and Yahoo receiving state incentives, creating jobs out of reach for everyone without reliable transportation.
The consensus is clear: development within the City of Buffalo is significantly more efficient and sustainable due to the existing infrastructure.
The region grows based on the success of Buffalo. The University at Buffalo North Campus expansion is viewed as a wrong that needs to be corrected, and efforts to expand the UB presence on the Medical Campus highlight the benefits of a focus on the city. Smart growth is the strategy that has changed the way we approach economic development in our region. The private and public sectors continue to work toward curbing urban sprawl and increasing sustainable efforts.
The smart growth economic development model, adopted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and the Regional Economic Development Council have worked for Buffalo. Phase 1 of the Buffalo Billion has positioned Buffalo to become a true 21st century city.
The Buffalo Billion let the world know Buffalo was open for business, leading to multiple business investors considering Buffalo as a worthwhile investment. The Pegulas ($1.4 billion), Jeffrey Gundlach ($42.5 million), Douglas Jemal ($12.6 million), etc.
Phase 2 will build on that success by investing in the revitalization of neighborhoods, improved job training and growing advanced manufacturing, tourism and life sciences. Additional investment will also be made to connect communities through rail expansion and infrastructure improvements.
The distribution of state funds to Buffalo should be determined by the Regional Economic Development Council, in collaboration with the Legislature, as an equal branch of government. The future of Buffalo is bright and we are poised to lead the nation on how to revitalize and create a 21st century city.
I strongly support the Buffalo Billion Squared initiative and after having discussions with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the Assembly will continue its support of the progress underway in Buffalo.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the upcoming budget process and ensuring Buffalo receives the highest level of support. Buffalo is my home and my love. We need to work together to ensure a better tomorrow.
Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, represents the 141st Assembly District.