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Western New York economic plan in the works

Daniel Robison
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown closed the Accelerate Upstate Conference last week. He said the region needs to speak with a unified voice if it wants to win positive changes from lawmakers in Albany and Washington.


Suggestions for fixing western New York’s economy collected at the Accelerate Upstate Conference last week will soon make their way to Albany and Washington.

Hundreds of business and government leaders convened in Buffalo to brainstorm ideas they hope will influence lawmakers to give upstate’s economy a better shot at succeeding.

But translating that five-year plan into economic success could prove difficult.

The two-day conference gathered constructive criticism from folks on the front lines of the weak western New York economy. These suggested fixes included lessening state taxes and regulation, which would need legislative approval.

Problem is, it’s August, and that’s a long time before Albany will even consider turning these suggestions into law.

The next legislative session could be vital for region’s economic future, says Tom Kucharski, the event’s organizer and president of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

“I think this is our window to really get back to where we should be,” Kucharski says. “We’ve had 15 straight months of positive job growth. We’re seen in a different light among site selectors and company officials. It’s kind of up to us whether we can move the ball down the field or not, and then whether we can keep it going.”

But there’s a chance the document of proposals will gather dust on Albany’s collective desk. Kucharski joked that in New York, legislators often need a study to study what they studied which would ultimately be put on a shelf.

That won’t happen in this case, Kucharski says, because the western New York business community is speaking with one voice. A voice that, he says, will pester lawmakers harder than ever.

According to SUNY Levin Institute founder (and former NBC news anchor) Garrick Utley, the five-year plan is the best concerted effort in the region’s history that speaks to decision makers with one reform-minded voice.

“Here in New York state, as elsewhere, all kinds of proposals and plans, reports are drawn up and presented to authorities, in this case the governor and the legislature in Albany,” says Utley. “What will make this different is that regionally you’re going to have a collective report. It’s not a report coming from Buffalo, Syracuse or Rochester.”

Downstate, which contains most of New York’s legislative seats and elected officials, is starting to recognize the benefit of a prosperous upstate economy, Utley says.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Enterprise will work on the report for the next six weeks before it’s delivered by a late September deadline.

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