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Biz Talk: Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus CEO talks about future growth

After Amherst native Matthew K. Enstice wrapped up stints in the entertainment industry that took him to Broadway Pictures in Los Angeles and "Saturday Night Live" in New York City, his career dramatically swerved back to Buffalo.

He landed at the helm of the nonprofit organization overseeing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Now, 17 years later, Enstice finds himself at the pulse of the expanding campus footprint, as he guides a shifting momentum in the campus' growth.

With a collective projected workforce of 16,000 this year, the Medical Campus continues to make its mark – from hospitals to clinical and research facilities.

"We deliver health care here, and we're going to do high-end health care here, but it's changing," said Enstice, president and chief executive officer of BNMC Inc. "Health care, as you know it, is a very, very different place. As that changes and evolves, you're going to see opportunities in our community to utilize technology to develop companies for the future."

The Medical Campus is already home to startup companies, entrepreneurs building businesses and high-tech companies. The momentum shows no signs of tapering off.

The future vision for the campus reflects a dedicated shift toward making room for local companies as they cut their teeth on new initiatives. The Medical Campus also looks to expand its innovation district to a 4.4-acre site on the northern edge of campus that once was the home of Osmose Holdings.

A visionary with high energy, Enstice is related to the prominent Jacobs family. His late father-in-law, Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs, was a neurologist and world-renowned researcher specializing in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Often wearing a blue or white button-down shirt and khakis, he is known for his casual attire and carefree manner. He rarely breaks out a tie or suit.

Enstice recently met with The Buffalo News inside the campus Innovation Center to talk about the campus' growth and future.

Q: What do monumental projects such as Children's Hospital and the UB medical school say about the future of the campus?

A: People talked in years past that Children's wasn't moving over and there was a lot of controversy. But I think it showed how the community coming together can do great things, and that's what Children's is a true sign of.

Right now, the (medical school) has a major presence in the city. That, to me, is a game changer that I don't think we can define right now.

I was sitting there at the opening, looking right out the window down Allen Street, and it was just amazing to envision what is Allen going to be like. What was so wild to see, was that I used to never see people walking there and there must have been 20 or 30 people coming out of that subway. It's just the fact that we have so much traffic starting to develop down here. And that's a real positive.

It's just the beginning of more opportunities for our community to leverage these great assets and great organizations being here on the campus.

Q: How does Buffalo's regional health care hub fit within the national mix?

A: I think that we're one of the leading innovation districts. I just don't think about it as health. If you look back to what Jerry Jacobs commissioned for looking at the future of medicine, it's changing dramatically. And I believe we're very well positioned because of our computer science school, our school of engineering and our ability to be leaders in the technology field. That's what I think of.

So, we've been on the map. Having Children's and the medical school down here, puts it on the map even more.

What we need to figure out how to do, and what we really want to do, in our next phases of development is to integrate the school of engineering and the schools of business.

How does Canisius College play a role here? How does Niagara University play a role here? How does Buffalo State College play a role here? We are so well positioned with all the institutions and assets that are here. So we plan to build out more space for them to have a location so they can interact and be a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that we have here.

Q: What kind of involvement?

A: Let's look at the future of medicine and all the work that we're doing in energy, all the work that we're doing in transportation. What's the major driver behind those industries as they're changing? It's technology. We're well positioned in building our community out to have a technology foundation that can enable health care, energy, transportation.

I'm talking this campus. We have all the resources. I don't think we'll build a building for a college. We want to build an environment where local businesses, big companies, are going to have a presence here.

Our plan is to build out space to embrace the local economy. I think, for too long, a lot of local businesses have not been engaged, because there hasn't been a vehicle.

I believe that if you look across as to what's going to help strengthen local companies, they have to be a part of what we're doing. I think we can all help one another. That is what this is all about. How do we build a platform and a foundation in technology for everybody? Tech is not the next chapter. It's the current chapter. It's really what is going to be our great opportunity for the future.

We'll use the footprint of the existing (Osmose) space that we have. As of right now, we are not planning to build a new building in the near future. We are planning to renovate the existing space. I think, over time, various companies will start to come in, but within the year is our goal is to start to see this development really start to take off.

Q: What would you say to naysayers who didn't think this vision for the campus would ever materialize in the fashion that it has so far?

A: If you stay together and you're straightforward and honest with one another, great things can happen. That is at the core of what builds all the great stuff that's down here on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus ... If you look at the 4.5 million square feet of development, the $1.4 billion worth of investment, that was because people worked, planned, developed together.

Q: What is the greatest challenge facing the campus?

A: I think the greatest challenge is that people continue to work together and support one another ... I think the biggest challenge you have is that sometimes people forget what got you here.

Q: Parking is a constant complaint or concern, and there's a huge push to get people to use public transit more.

A: We have off-campus shuttles running. We have public transportation being utilized and programs in place. And it's starting to work. People are actually trying it and it's working. While it's not perfect, it is an option. And so to me, we will always have a parking spot here for every patient and visitor that comes down here.

What we would hope to see is that more people live in and around the campus, in and around the subway station.

The mayor continues to talk about reinvesting in Main Street with infrastructure. He's committed $10 million so far, going toward Canisius. We want to see the mayor continue on that and go all the way and connect us to Canisius College. ... I believe if you continue to do that, you'll see more residential units pop up on Main Street. You'll see more people using the transit. That's what we want to see.

Q: There are signs of spinoff development in Allentown. But for the Fruit Belt neighborhood, there always seems to be an undercurrent of concern, gentrification, trying to preserve the Michigan Avenue corridor, and a push for more parking. What do you foresee for the Fruit Belt?

A: For the Fruit Belt, I hope that there's continued investment there in the infrastructure. The mayor has done a great job at fixing the streets, the sidewalks, the trees and the lights. I hope they continue to do that because I want to see more people invest in that neighborhood. … We believe that will be a positive if the community is part of the solution there.

I'm really intrigued by what's going on in Masten, Fruit Belt and Allentown – to me, they're very similar in the sense that they've always been engaged in a part of the process with what's going on with the campus. Everybody's always talked about it. Everybody's had a light on it.

What I'm interested in is what is going on to the north. We believe there's going to need to be more of an engagement there. I think it's a community that people maybe have not paid as much attention to. But they're on the border of all this stuff that's going on here. So, it's probably already happening and we don't know it.

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