AMHERST - Although Buffalo is receiving $1 billion to develop the city, Chautauqua County will be seeing some benefits of the money.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed $1 billion to economic excellence in the Buffalo area, in order to set a new growth direction for jobs and growth in the regional economy. Last week, the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council presented six initiatives to the governor.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi and Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edward are each on the Regional Economic Development Council. According to Teresi, the council includes the mayors of the three largest cities in Western New York Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Jamestown as well as the top elected official from Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Erie and Niagara counties.
"With the involvement of the Regional Economic Development Council and with leadership of folks on the ground and from the city of Buffalo and Erie County, they're putting together a strategy to apply for and receive funding through a variety of state agencies for major transformation economic development projects for Buffalo and its metropolitan area," Teresi said.
The council made several recommendations for investable initiatives. It recommended a Buffalo Center for Manufacturing Initiative, which would include a state-of-the-art facility to support the region's manufacturing center. It would be a shared services enterprise that provides support in commercializing applied research, developing more efficient operational processes, enabling entry into new markets and up-skilling the existing workforce.
Additionally, the council recommended a Buffalo Science Productivity and Research Catalyzer to help bring breakthrough health care innovations to the market. It would support researchers in developing translational research, acquiring patents and licensing those patents or developing them into businesses.
There would be a Buffalo Niagara Tourism Program to leverage the tourism assets in Niagara Falls and the city of Buffalo through a more coordinated and sophisticated marketing strategy; investments and increased programming in the Niagara State Park; investments in other regional tourism assets and amenities; and the creation of regional offerings.
Another recommendation is for a Buffalo Skills Partnership, which would be a skills broker with initial investments in Rapid Right Skilling and Say Yes. The partnership would make Buffalo's workforce system the most flexible, diverse and responsive in the nation by aligning education and training behind the skills employers need to expand and workers need for job success.
It also introduces a Buffalo Breakthrough Business Challenge, which is a business plan competition to catalyze the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem. Winners would receive initial funding, incubator space, mentorship and introductions to leading venture capital firms.
Finally, the plan includes a Better Buffalo Fund to make targeted investments through a dedicated fund to support high impact economic and community development projects.
A competition would determine the best investments, based on overall strategic fit, impact, proven capacity to execution and commitment of additional funds.
"Those sectors that the Buffalo Billion-dollar plan is trying to focus on are the educational sector, growing the health care industry and these are already areas of strength and areas that are showing potential already," Teresi said.
Last week's meeting was attended by Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who heard a detailed update from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
"We analyzed the projects that had been approved for late 2011 and their progress," Edwards said. "We have reviewed the progress on projects we had approved and the state had funded through 2012. We did a very detailed analysis of where they were in their process."
GROWING CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY
The Buffalo Billion plan will go directly to the Buffalo region. However, according to Teresi and Edwards, the impact of the initiative will also positively affect Chautauqua County.
"Even though we're not eligible for any of those earmarked funds here, the thought is that in Jamestown and Chautauqua County and Olean and Cattaraugus County, it ultimately works to our favor, and it has benefit to us to have a strong, growing, revitalized Buffalo-Niagara region," Teresi said. '"Nobody will deny that Jamestown and Chautauqua County are definitely in the orbit of the Buffalo-Niagara region from a variety of standpoints. Our portion of Western New York cannot grow to its potential if the heart of the region is dying on the vine. We are supportive of this."
Edwards agreed, saying that as the Buffalo economy continues to grow, so does the economy in Chautauqua County.
"As Buffalo and Niagara Falls become more vibrant, as the Western New York economy grows, we grow along with it," he said. "There are a significant number of people that travel to Buffalo to work. There are businesses that people own that live here that are actually in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and vice versa. A lot of people have second homes here in Chautauqua County. Certainly, people ski down here. As the economy grows up there, it grows for all of us. So, we have a very significant reason to remain involved in all of that."