The second phase of the Buffalo Billion is evolutionary, not revolutionary.
The first Buffalo Billion, launched three years ago by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was focused on big projects. Each was aimed at creating hundreds of new jobs and jump-starting entire industries, while also giving a psychological pick-me-up to the Buffalo Niagara region’s battered psyche.
The Buffalo Billion II is intended to build on the foundation laid out by the first Buffalo Billion, while also spreading the economic development plan’s focus into smaller initiatives intended to build on the projects in the first phase and branch out into new neighborhoods and communities that were not part of the first phase.
“Here’s what this means for the community: More downtown development, transit-oriented development, East Side and neighborhood development, Medical Campus development and more business development,” said Howard Zemsky, the Buffalo developer who is president of Empire State Development.
Revitalization and smart growth
• DL&W Terminal: $20 million to extend Metro Rail to the terminal and redevelop the building and surroundings. Project also would require about $20 million in federal funding.
• Extend Metro Rail to Amherst: $5 million for preliminary studies on an extension, which could cost upward of $1.2 billion.
• Buffalo train station: $25 million toward the construction of a new train station in Buffalo.
• Bethlehem Steel site revitalization: $10 million to redevelop the Lackawanna site, including land acquisition for an industrial park.
Innovation and entrepreneurship
• 43North: $25 million to continue running the business plan competition.
• Buffalo Innovation Center: $40 million to create a facility with incubator and wet lab space on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to support fledgling companies and address a shortage of incubator space within the region. The $40 million also includes funding for the Buffalo Innovation Fund.
• Buffalo Innovation Fund: Create a fund to invest in businesses spawned by research at local institutions, like the University at Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, along with an innovation center.
• Workforce Development Fund: $10 million to study worker training needs and finance training initiatives that meet those needs, especially among underserved segments of the local population.
• Say Yes Buffalo: $10 million for Say Yes Buffalo as a way of strengthening the local workforce. The funding would help expand the program’s relationships with colleges and universities, and also attempt to increase participation through expanded outreach to families of Buffalo Public School students.
• Buffalo Manufacturing Works: $35 million to move the innovation hub to a larger facility in the Northland Corridor. The center also will develop a loan fund to help companies finance the initiatives developed in conjunction with its experts. The center also will increase its staff and develop a broader range of services for local manufacturers, especially in the areas of advanced automation and additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing.
• Niagara Falls Land Acquisition: $24.5 million to purchase underused or vacant property within a block of Niagara Falls State Park to make it available to new owners with plans for development.
• Niagara River Gorge restoration: $500,000 to remove invasive plant species and restore native plants. Add interpretive signs and offer educational programming.
• Visitor Welcome Center: $20 million to create a welcome center on Grand Island to provide information about local attractions and products.
Health and life sciences
• Strategic Investment Fund: $10 million for investments in health and life sciences projects in an attempt to attract major industry firms to the region and encourage regional firms to expand in the Buffalo Niagara region.
• University at Buffalo medical school expansion: $20 million to allow UB to increase the size of the medical school classes to 180 students from the current 144 students. The funding also would allow the school to add 100 new physicians and scientists to the faculty at its new home on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.