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Banks, foundations add $8M to state's $50M for East Side

A group of 10 banks and local philanthropic foundations – including M&T Bank Corp. and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation – are pledging more than $8 million to support nonprofit organizations working on Buffalo's East Side, building off the state's recent commitment of $50 million to benefit the same impoverished areas.

The partnership is creating a pooled investment fund, designed to support the state's effort while strengthening the ability of local nonprofits to improve economic conditions for those they serve.

The goal of the venture, which will be lead by University at Buffalo's Regional Institute, is to develop and implement revitalization strategies for the East Side, while ensuring that the nonprofits have the leadership, management, skills and resources they need.

The pool, which will be administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, has $8.07 million in commitments from the five banks and five foundations, with a final target of $8.7 million. It will accompany the larger East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, which will include the state money.

The commitments by the private and philanthropic organizations come in the wake of last month's announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that Empire State Development will fund $50 million in capital improvements and other initiatives on the East Side. That's also on top of $10 million that was previously unveiled for housing initiatives and $5 million for the Central Terminal restoration, as well as more than $100 million being spent on the Northland Corridor, particularly for the new Workforce Training Center and Buffalo Manufacturing Works.

The new state effort focuses on infrastructure and other investments in nine areas along the north-south corridors of Bailey, Fillmore, Jefferson and Michigan avenues. It will focus on projects that can be implemented within five years, and which benefit local residents, support local businesses and hire people from the community.

“We can help expand the revitalization taking place across the City of Buffalo by stimulating economic activity, creating job opportunities, and attracting new businesses specifically to the East Side,” Elizabeth Gurney, executive director of both the KeyBank Foundation and the First Niagara Foundation, said in a statement.

The targeted projects must also promote mixed-use and walkable areas, support "significant" historic and natural assets, expand workforce connections, help new businesses and entrepreneurs, aid projects with "community momentum" and build on existing "transformational" investments. Officials have already chosen specific projects based on community input from stakeholder meetings, listening sessions and ideas submitted from residents and others, the group said.

[Related: 'You will see projects coming out of the woodwork': What $50M will do for the East Side]

ESD lined up the extra private-sector partnerships and commitments to help East Side nonprofits to become more effective in delivering services. The new fund will help pay for nonprofit staff who will implement and manage the initiatives, provide peer-to-peer assistance, and monitor all projects.

"We believe this investment will serve as a stimulus to breathe prosperity into an area important to the city’s overall revival,” said Robert D. Gioia, the John R. Oishei Foundation president.

KeyBank and the First Niagara Foundation were the first to the table, with a joint commitment of $1 million, followed by $4 million from the Wilson Foundation and $1 million each from M&T and the John R. Oishei Foundation.

The Community Foundation pledged $500,000, while the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation contributed $250,000. Evans Bank, Northwest Bank and the Western New York Foundation each provided another $100,000, while Five Star Bank pledged $20,000. Altogether, they account for most of the leading financial institutions and charitable organizations in the region.

'You will see projects coming out of the woodwork': What $50M will do for the East Side

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