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Buffalo to Rochester MapHow does the state decide where to lure companies with lavish government grants and tax incentives?

TThe state announced last year it’s spending $55 million to help IBM set up a data center in downtown Buffalo. It’s eventually supposed employ 500 workers. Aside from questions about the contracts awarded to the governor’s donors, there’s another question raised by a recent Buffalo News article. Why on earth did the state pick Buffalo?

“The skills we’re looking for are hard to find anyway. If we were sitting in the Silicon Valley, it still would be very hard to find,” Goodwyn said. A big part of IBM’s workforce development plan is to bring in a sizable number of entry-level workers by building ties with colleges from across upstate, from the University at Buffalo to the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester, to Cornell University and Clarkson University, Goodwyn said. UB lacks a specific data analytics major within its computer science and engineering school, but other schools, like RIT and the University of Rochester, have it.

“That’s part of our business plan: College and university hires,” he said.

 

 

Locating Solar City in Buffalo was also questionable. We have a giant industrial facility called Eastman Business Park that desperately wants to attract solar companies. In fact, Kodak specialized in material science and chemicals, the same stuff needed to innovate in solar. But the state chose to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build on a brand new site.

Locating photonics in Rochester made sense. We already have a lot of photonics companies, university programs and talent.

I’m not suggesting Buffalo doesn’t deserve nice things. I’m suggesting when the state uses carrots to attract companies, it should put some analysis into where these companies would be a good fit. I’m sure there are things more suited to Buffalo than Rochester. But Albany doesn’t seem to care.

Side note on high-speed rail:

Couldn’t people commute between Rochester and Buffalo? Unless Rep. Louise Slaughter gets her wish on high speed rail, we don’t have a mega-region. There’s no way to regularly commute between Rochester and Buffalo unless you have a car. Even if high speed rail becomes a reality, the last mile is a problem. How do people get to where they’re going when they get off the train? Inter-city buses would also be an issue. Jobs are no longer concentrated in downtowns. Right now, fewer than 2,500 people commute between Erie and Monroe counties. It’s possible that number could grow as transit and job opportunities grow. Any high speed rail or inter-city transit project must consider STAMP in Genesee County, a 100 percent car-dependent project. The bottom line is our regions are not connected via transit or economic development. They probably should be. I’m skeptical we’ll see a mega-region, as described in this New York Times op-ed, in our lifetimes.