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SUNY funding plans tempered by state's economic realities

Daniel Robison
Empire State Development CEO Ken Adams told a crowd of UB brass last week that it would be a major cog in the state's economy. But Albany has not provided funds for UB 2020 to launch.


Once envisioned as the driver of a western New York economic comeback, UB 2020 has now been prescribed a different route by Albany. As the legislative session nears an end, its future is cloudy at best. (What is UB 2020?)

Hyping the idea

Empire State Development CEO Ken Adams preached to a proverbial choir of University at Buffalo officials last week that the state’s economic future will be driven in large part by its public universities.

“We should be making sure that those colleges and universities across the state every year are driving a greater percentage of the state’s gross state product,” says Adams.  “This is an asset across the state of colleges, universities, research facilities, that few states, if any, can compare with. That has to be seen as a driver of economy development.”

As head of New York’s economic development agency, Adams manages the $1 billion in taxpayer money the state injects into its $1 trillion economy. UB 2020 was originally modeled to spark an economic comeback in western New York by calling upon the state to contribute funds or allow UB to collect more on its own.

This legislative session, that all-in-one package has been disassembled in favor for a $140 million pot of money that will be divided among three other schools.

“Well, as the name implies UB 2020 is a long-term initiative, a long-term plan. So like many plans a practical approach is for it to happen in stages,” Adams says.

Funding (mostly) comes later

Adams admits the new program, dubbed NY SUNY 2020 offers UB a sliver of what it sought under UB 2020, around $35 million.

UB 2020, fully funded, would have cost $5 billion to jumpstart new construction and the hiring of people to fill those new buildings.

But Adams says that fact should not compromise the principal he preaches of leveraging SUNY schools for the state’s economic future.

“It’s an initial amount of funding from Albany, from state government. But it should be catalytic, it should trigger other sources of support: federal funding, local government contributions, and especially private sector support,” Adams says.

UB has already presented its case to the Governor’s office for its share of NY SUNY 2020. So has Stony Brook. Adams says many of the details of where that money will come from or when it will arrive still have to be worked out sometime this summer.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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