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Cuomo to detail new phase of Buffalo Billion today

A second phase of the Buffalo Billion economic development program is expected to be a centerpiece of the initiatives included in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's State of the State address in Buffalo on Monday.

Cuomo tasked Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky with developing a follow-up program for the Buffalo Billion in September, after nine people, including Alain R. Kaloyeros, the CEO of SUNY Polytechnic and one of the visionaries behind several key Buffalo Billion projects, were charged with corruption in a pay-to-play scheme involving Buffalo Billion projects and others across the state.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," Cuomo said in December during a stop in the Town of Tonawanda, without disclosing any further details about what the program might entail.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he expects the Buffalo Billion's next phase to include new community-focused initiatives.

"I anticipate that there will be items in the Buffalo Billion, Part 2, that will address the needs of communities that might not be seeing the recovery as intensely as others," Brown said.

Cuomo has never said how much money he is willing to commit to a second phase of the Buffalo Billion.

"I certainly don't anticipate that it will be another $1 billion," Brown said.

Most of the Buffalo Billion's initiatives have been centered around a smattering of big projects, from the $900 million SolarCity solar panel factory to projects valued at roughly $50 million or more for an IBM Corp. data analytics center downtown, a medical genomics venture and an East Side worker training and development hub. Other ventures include a drug development venture and projects to improve Niagara Falls tourism.

"They've been predominantly large projects," said Colleen DiPirro, the president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, who hopes the second phase will include more funding aimed at helping small businesses expand and take advantage of opportunities created by the first wave of Buffalo Billion projects.

"There's a lot of renewed hope in Western New York. That has to filter down to the small businesses," she said. "What we'd like to see is a renewed focus on small business development, focusing on ways to help them capitalize on the big projects going on."

Having a second phase to the Buffalo Billion will help build on the new jobs and renewed sense of hope that the first phase of the initiative generated, Brown said.

"I think the governor is very focused on job creation and providing support to businesses and entities that create jobs," Brown said. "He sees the results of his time and investments in the community and he recognizes that people are being lifted."

Thomas Kucharski, the president of Invest Buffalo Niagara, said the initiatives should build on the Buffalo Billion projects already underway, making sure the region has the worker training programs and the shovel-ready development sites in place for suppliers and other businesses that are drawn to the region because of those initiatives.

"What we've got to continue doing is to go, not to where the puck is, but to where it's going," Kucharski said. "The community has to have the ability to sustain these large projects."

One Buffalo Billion project that does focus on small businesses and neighborhood investments, the $30 million Better Buffalo Fund, could be expanded in the second phase of the Buffalo Billion, said Sam Hoyt, Empire State Development's regional president, during an event Thursday. Hoyt was at the event to promote a $125,000 grant through the Better Buffalo Fund to restore the Parkside Candy shop in North Buffalo.

Cuomo first disclosed his plans for a second phase for the Buffalo Billion in September.

News staff reporter Mark Sommer contributed to this story.

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