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Editorial: Albany's big lift is rebuilding Buffalo

This is Buffalo turning a corner. With the efforts of Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and especially Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, this city is on its way back. It’s no coincidence that a recent story on Huffington Post named Buffalo as one of 10 cities around the world “That Are About To Be Famous … Again.”

Many influences have gone into Buffalo’s nascent revival, but the Buffalo Billion economic development program surely tops the list. It was a bold move by Cuomo, who initiated the program, and a politically chancy one, as well, given the obvious risk of alienating other parts of the state.

But there was economic sense in it, too. As New York’s second-largest city, Buffalo’s long decline was an economic drag on the rest of the state, requiring regular large infusions of state tax dollars to support it. Its weakness also contributed to New York’s politically harmful population loss, as young people and families uprooted themselves for areas that held more promise. As population shrank, so did the state’s representation in Congress.

It’s not that Cuomo has suddenly solved those problems. Buffalo’s revival remains a work in progress. But with the Buffalo Billion and, critically, this year’s follow-up program, which guarantees another $500 million to build on the initial program, the city has climbed out of a ditch of self-doubt.

And it’s not Stuart Smalley affirmations, either: With the help of the state, things are happening all over the city, most notably at the SolarCity plant nearing completion in South Buffalo, but in many other sections, as well.

Now comes the essential follow-up – the Part 2 that is designed to ensure that the initial burst of focused effort has legs that will carry it forward, building on the successes of the original program. Cuomo insisted on its approval and fought off legislative efforts that would inevitably have diminished its impact.

It takes that kind of clout to get things done, as the economic revival of the Capital District showed. Under the influence of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who was from the Albany area, the state invested mightily in creating a new, high-tech economy that has served that region well.

But it wasn’t one-and-done. It took an ongoing, concentrated effort to turn that corner. That’s the kind of effort Cuomo has exerted on behalf of Western New York. With the first phase of the program, announced in 2012, and now the follow-up five years later, Buffalo is poised to create an economy with the components needed to sustain itself.

The work will require other contributors, including Washington, where funding of some projects, such as an extension of the Metro Rail, has become uncertain. The area’s federal delegation will have to work hard to protect the region’s interests against several of President Trump’s proposals.

In the meantime, though, Albany has managed a big lift on behalf of what has long been – and remains – a remarkable city. If Buffalo got a lot of help recently, it’s not that it didn’t deserve it.

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