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Another Voice: Buffalo Billion strategy has turned WNY around

By Howard Zemsky

Paul Alexander questioned the success of the Buffalo Billion in an Another Voice that ran on the same day The Buffalo News ran a front-page story declaring, “Home sale prices in WNY are going through the roof with no end in sight.” A broker quoted in the story described the current real estate market in these terms: “Our economy is strong, with plenty of strong buyers willing to pay for the right home in that median price point. I am as busy now as I have been all year.”

After decades of decline, almost every metric and indicator has flipped for the better.
More than 20,000 new jobs, 1,600 new companies, a 16.4 percent increase in wages, a refreshed national image, a boom in the real estate market, dramatic increases in private sector investment and, perhaps most importantly, a marked turnaround in the population of young adults by close to 7 percent for the first time in what feels like forever.

Buffalo newspaper headlines of businesses closing and a population fleeing have been replaced by a completely new reality – a city on the rise. Now we read about General Motors, Ford, Sumitomo, General Mills, Moog, Geico, AMRI, Circuit Clinical, Bak USA, Tesla and Panasonic arriving or expanding in Western New York.

We read of new hotels opening up on the grounds of abandoned buildings in Niagara Falls, the Richardson Towers finally repurposed, the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces, an expanding Albright-Knox Art Gallery, an ecologically resurrected Niagara River, a modernized Buffalo Zoo and Niagara Falls Aquarium, a new Children’s Hospital, an expanded Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a thriving Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the Robert Moses expressway finally coming down. And no more talk about the Bills moving away.

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo frequently explains, the Buffalo Billion is a strategy, not just a pot of money. New York State has invested more than $8 billion for construction and economic development in Western New York since the governor took office. The Buffalo Billion strategy has guided that investment, through the insights and analysis of local leaders brought together in the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. It helps, too, that the governor’s economic development chief, lieutenant governor and other top administration officials are from Western New York.

Since the inception of the Buffalo Billion strategy, long-discussed ideas have become reality.

As for the SolarCity (now Tesla) plant, it has weathered changes in ownership, changes in federal tax law and changes in federal clean energy policies and is now hitting its stride as it completes equipment installation and ramps up employment, now in the hundreds and counting.

We have a governor who believes in Buffalo and has consistently invested in its growth and success. Buffalo is back – and anyone who lives, works and raises a family in Buffalo will tell you the same. I encourage Alexander to come visit and see for himself.

Howard Zemsky is a Buffalo developer and CEO of Empire State Development.

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