With Covid-19 disrupting so much of Buffalo Niagara's everyday life and its economic foundation, getting back to normal won't happen overnight. We asked a group of Buffalo Niagara leaders what the region needs to do to emerge from the pandemic stronger.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Bill Maggio was bullish on the progress Buffalo made in building a sustainable startup culture and in leveraging its medical and research assets to boost the economy.
Now, he's confident the region can quickly recover from the financial damage inflicted by the pandemic.
Maggio's words carry weight because he's as well connected as anyone in Buffalo's business community. The managing partner of the private equity firm Lorraine Capital is CEO of the Jacobs Institute, vice chair of Kaleida Health's board of directors and former chair of the 43North business competition.
He elaborated on why the region is positioned well to rebound in 2021 in a recent interview, edited for length and clarity.
What should Buffalo Niagara do to emerge from Covid-19 and the recession it caused as a stronger region?
Prior to the pandemic, we really had some momentum behind us. We had demonstrated to the world that we could sustain a startup community here in Western New York. We don't need to hit a home run every time. We just need to hit singles and doubles. We've got all these young entrepreneurs who are coming into the community, investing in the East Side, investing in the lower West Side. They're resilient. They're finding ways to get by. So I'm very bullish about our community's future.
How long will this recovery take? And how much of the timing and the speed is tied to full distribution of the vaccine?
We're going to be coming out of a surge in late winter. I would anticipate, by the early to midspring, that we will begin a very broad-based vaccination process. And I think it will be well into the second, and well into the third, quarter until people really start to feel comfortable again. We're looking at another four months of some really difficult times in this community. And, after that, we're going to start to see a real acceleration into that momentum that I talked about. And I think we won't be talking about whether or not Western New York will be successful in turning this recession around in 2022. We're going to be witnessing it way before then. And it's my hope that we will be having a 43North event at Shea's with 3,000 people in that room sometime in late fall 2021. That is our goal.
What do you think are the sectors of the economy that have suffered the longest lasting effects from the pandemic?
I really think that the hospitality industry has suffered tremendously. I think that businesses in the inner cities have suffered tremendously. You know, we did that Back to Business thing with the county, 43North facilitated that. We pushed almost $19 million into the hands of small business owners. And our health care workers have done a remarkable job of keeping our community safe. And it's just not at Kaleida, it's at Roswell, it's at the Catholics – anybody associated with administering to the health needs of our community have done a remarkable job. And it's been very stressful on them.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. How does Covid-19 affect its role as an economic and research engine for the area?
So the Medical Campus has played a big role in helping that retention piece, keeping these key docs, these key researchers, in Buffalo. I believe that, post pandemic, there's going to be a real acceleration of all the great things that are happening on the campus. Look at that (University at Buffalo) medical school. It's elevated everything. It's elevated the quality of applicant, it's elevated the quality and the potential of the students and that, in turn, elevates the quality of the residency programs and this tide raises all ships. I have absolutely no reason to believe that that will change.
The Jacobs Institute, 43North, they encourage direct entrepreneurial and technical collaborations. How much have we lost this year because these collisions can’t easily happen through remote work?
Oh, I mean, we're not having an event this year for 43North. That's really unfortunate. But we have commitments from the state that we will pick up where we left off in 2021. So, as far as the Jacobs Institute is concerned, in the middle of a pandemic, you can't collide, right? So it's had an impact from that regard. But we were deemed an essential business. We've continued to execute our mission, to convince the world that if you want to advance in medical device, and the neuro-cardiovascular space, coming to Buffalo is the place to do it.