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With plenty of work to do, the numbers point to a city on the rebound

A couple of recent stories in The News detail the exciting prospects of the City of Buffalo, not too long ago mired in the doldrums but now facing the kind of resurgence people once hardly dared dream about.

The front-page article last Sunday by News staff reporters Susan Schulman and Jay Rey revealed that the taxable value of property in Buffalo has reached $6.7 billion, and is soon expected to be at an all-time high.

The city, although still with unacceptable pockets of poverty and low educational outcomes, has come a long way and is heading in the right direction.

The increase in taxable value is welcome in Buffalo, of course, but also in neighboring Amherst, the county’s current leader in taxable value. Leaders in Buffalo Niagara recognize that the region’s future crosses geographical, gender and racial boundaries; economic advances anywhere – especially Buffalo, the region’s core – will help everyone.

The difficulty for any elected leader is in making sure the entire population is sharing in the better days. Tough job, but Mayor Byron W. Brown seems ready to take on the challenge.

In a sweeping State of the City address, Brown reminded the audience in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center of what has been accomplished:

HarborCenter, part of the Terry and Kim Pegula empire, features a hockey training ground and hospitality venue. But that’s just part of the payoff from the couple’s focus on Buffalo. The mayor thanked them for ensuring the future of the Buffalo Bills by buying the team.

Canalside, with its huge public ice rink, is managing what once seemed impossible: drawing visitors downtown during the winter.

The biggest is yet to come: the 3,000 jobs expected to be created by the SolarCity factory in South Buffalo’s developing RiverBend property.

More than $5 billion in economic development activity is under way, expected to create more than 12,000 jobs, according to the mayor.

Many of those jobs will land at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with its new University at Buffalo Medical School, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, Conventus Medical Building and Roswell Park Cancer Institute Clinical Sciences Center.

With that as background, the mayor, who easily won a second term in 2013, stressed the need to include all city residents in the new economy.

He said he is creating a Racial Equity Roundtable of government, business and community leaders to emphasize the need for diversity and inclusion. The city also will hire a chief diversity officer who will work with the group, he said.

“We must foster a communitywide mindset that embraces diversity and inclusion as core values,” Brown said. “Going forward, we will focus more on building a city of opportunity for everyone.”

He has already moved in that direction by creating the Northland Business and Training Park on the East Side. This hub for light industry on vacant and underused land has the potential to create hundreds of jobs and training opportunities in a part of the city that has not been touched by the renaissance.

It’s not all good news. Even with thousands of new jobs and soaring property values, poverty will remain a problem. And the city’s struggling schools are a disincentive to middle-class families. Yet as the numbers show, Buffalo’s prospects are brighter than they have been in decades.