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Brookings' Bruce Katz talks "billion for Buffalo"

Eileen Koteras Elibol
Brookings Institution Vice President Bruce Katz will advise Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to spend $1 billion to boost Buffalo's economy.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo promised a “billion for Buffalo” earlier this year, he promised to draw on the expertise of Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution.

“There already is a buzz nationally about the Buffalo billion,” Katz told the crowd of 200 at “Buffalo City Forum” on Wednesday at WNED’s downtown studios.

“Dramatic effect”

In his address, he hinted at his vision for how the billion will be spent.

The Buffalo metro area contains about six percent of state’s jobs and population. The ultimate goal of Cuomo’s billion will be to boost both of numbers and make it stick.

Attracting industries with staying power is the first pillar of this comeback, which the billion will essentially try to buy, says Katz.

“Most places in the United States would kill for a governor to make an announcement of this sort. It has a dramatic effect. It signals to the market and investors and frankly to other parts of the country: These folks are serious, these folks are in the game, [Buffalo] has a state backing them,” Katz says.

The Western New York Regional Council will work with Katz and other consultants to find and incentivize projects with state money that have the best chance of bringing in investment from outside the region.

These deliberations will likely result in a handful of large developments focused on downtown.

“The public sector likes to spread money around like peanut butter. That’s not how you get high return on investment. And that’s what the billion dollars is. It’s an investment, it’s not just spending. It’s the hit that’s going to happen over five, then, 15 years,” Katz says.

“I could understand the sprawl in Phoenix. But [Buffalo has] managed to have sprawl without growth. And you’ve got to work at that. From 1950 to 2000, while the population of this metropolis grew by seven percent over 50 years, the urbanized area tripled.”

Katz will meet with the Western New York Regional Council for the first time today. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the Center for Tomorrow on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. The public is invited to attend.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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