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IBM becomes just the latest trophy in Cuomo’s effort to revive Buffalo

Another month, another announcement. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is paying so much attention to Buffalo, it’s starting to feel like a full-blown bromance.

Cuomo came to Western New York on Monday to confirm the report that the Buffalo Billion had landed another big fish, and perhaps the biggest yet: IBM will anchor a technology hub in downtown Buffalo, where it will employ 500 people to create cutting-edge software for industries including energy, health and defense.

This project involves a $55 million commitment by the state, more than any of the other initiatives but one, the RiverBend project for which the state is anteing up $225 million. But none of the other projects involved a name as big and as respected as IBM.

To be sure, the other announced developments are exciting for Buffalo even though they involve mostly unknown companies joining high-tech projects with convoluted names. Two California companies, for example – Soraa and Silevo – will relocate major parts of their operations to the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend, investing $1.5 billion in the project.

That’s impressive and certainly welcome, but more than a little inscrutable. Not so this one.

The actual work to be undertaken at the nascent Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub may be a mystery to most Buffalonians, but IBM is not. The storied company, native to New York, has had its ups and downs over the past decade, but it still recorded $16.5 billion in profits last year.

This is a powerful company that is going to land somewhere in downtown Buffalo, producing its expected 500 jobs in three to five years. The company will also become the first corporate technology member of the New York Genomic Medicine Center associated with the University at Buffalo.

This is the fifth development that Cuomo has unveiled for this city since announcing the Buffalo Billion. It’s a breakneck pace compared to the longer-term, state-assisted development in Albany. In addition to the genomic research center and the RiverBend projects, other announcements included the Buffalo Niagara Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness and the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub.

The projects follow the successful partnership model used in Albany, in which the state pays for the buildings, the laboratory equipment and computer systems, and recruits companies to staff and operate the facilities. It packs a powerful punch – one, we are sure, that some economic purists would protest.

But it works and, what is more, the traditional model of economic development centered mainly on the private sector has done little for Western New York over decades of decline. Some force was needed to break the pattern, and only New York, in the hands of a governor on a mission, had the clout and the passion to pursue that task successfully.

Indeed, we can’t think of another New York governor who has set his sights on turning around a regional economy. Any of them could have taken it on, but only Cuomo did and, what is more, at a time when the state is still recovering from the debilitating effects of the Great Recession. He came calling, economic roses in hand.

Isn’t it bromantic?