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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.

13 Responses to Why There?

  1. April 27, 2016 at 9:59 pm ellen ciminelli responds:

    And why aren’t you running for President of our country? Consider it!

  2. “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. … 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.”

    You can barely get two neighboring towns to share a building inspector or an ambulance service. Little podunks scream bloody murder when the gov’t tries to shut down a little-used post office because the residents fear the loss of their town’s identity, which also explains why a lot of school mergers that make sense financially and educationally can also never happen.

    Given all that, do you think anyone with any real power (political or otherwise) in our area would risk anything even remotely resembling a “merger” with Buffalo? You know darn well that we’d come out on the short end of everything, because that the way it always is.

    — We got shortchanged on Thruway exits long ago and lost the 716 area code more recently.
    — We’re saddled with state-imposed burdens burdens that Buffalo doesn’t face (Rochester’s $117 million annual maintenance of effort payment to the RCSD).
    — The Buffalo Billion vs. Finger Lakes having to battle for half that in the Hunger Games.
    — UB (and Binghamton of all places) designated at SUNY University centers.
    — Western NY gets IBM and Yahoo data centers, we get Xerox call centers with $10-$12/hour jobs.
    — Etc.

  3. The issue of lack of coordination is related to issues in general but is especially true for transportation. The political elected system
    refuses to support any rel riders advocacy activist group. It often prefers those who do more to complement them. Another example of the Moses history.

    As for the IBM Buffalo situation, your first statement about who and where the donors are likely is the prime reason. This Governor
    never plans to stop attempt to run for president.

  4. April 28, 2016 at 10:40 am Kristo Miettinen responds:

    Equality. That’s why there. The Buffalo News article mentions it: the location decision was made precisely because of the weakness of Buffalo’s tech sector. Equalizers invest in weakness and tax strength, as a matter of principle.

    • What about the weakness Rochester has in keep graduates here? Screw us right, as long as it works out for Buffalo?

  5. April 28, 2016 at 11:06 am theodore kumlander responds:

    so the plan is to create analytics center more naturally suited to ROC’s strengths & then steal talent from our universities?

    — Erik Frisch (@frisch_ROC) April 26, 2016

    I can not agree with Mr. Frisch. Perhaps i am seeing this wrong , but hiring graduates of the UR and RIT seems like a good idea, coordinating with those 2 schools on research seems like a good idea, and having those graduates stay here in Rochester is a good idea. Manufacturing is gone and never coming back. Education and Medical are what Rochester and Buffalo has to offer.

    • I feel like you’re reading this wrong, they aren’t staying in Rochester, they’re going to work in Buffalo according to this “plan”.

  6. April 28, 2016 at 3:40 pm Some Guy responds:

    This is excellent criticism, and should be extended to all such Soviet-esque central economic planning, regardless of how refined the branding and PR have become (i.e. “industrial development”).

  7. In the EU one can travel anywhere from within a block or two of their home, within an 1/2 hour. This by bus or tram. Then a train and on the other end the same efficiency as when you left. We don’t have that type of regional transit, nor the schedule to make this type of travel efficient. A high speed train to the central station and then what, a cab or uber. How many runs to and from Buffalo? Two? If one needs to leave the political world with a legacy,…a high speed train won’t win you any points.

    PS Tried uber in NYC (Queens) this week. Unbelievably efficient and cost effective. The simplicity of this mode of transportation is amazing. The cab world had better adjust or they will be a thing of the past in short order.

  8. Lot of good Duffy did us in Albany and a lot of good he is doing with the connections now that he’s back at the RBA. Forgotten again, but at least we got a 390 exit, what else have we done for economic development?

  9. May 5, 2016 at 12:23 pm Some Guy responds:

    Why there? Probably because some corrupt government official or his friends have something to gain by circumventing the free market:

    SUNY Polytechnic President and CEO Dr. Alain Kaloyeros is under investigation over possible bid-rigging


    What a shame the politicos exempted themselves from RICO, let’s hope more crooks with their snouts at the public trough meet a similar fate as Maggie Crooks’ felon husband (except unlike Wiesner, hopefully they’ll actually have to wear a prison jumpsuit).

  10. May 15, 2016 at 11:49 am A Concerned Citizen responds:

    Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) has enabled projects like Solar City to be built. Cheaper to build anew than to rehab an old factory, and besides, the majority of old factories are a pain to rehab, anyway. Multi-story factory sites are all but impossible to find buyers for, which is why Kodak had so many buildings at Kodak Park knocked down. Environmental remediation is another factor, and similar to the old Taylor site on West Ave. Kodak Park is chock full of contaminants.

    Solar City is just another flash-in-the-pan, and won’t be around long. It’ll become another abandoned site in a city and region (particularly Erie Cty), that many have abandoned going back to 1950, when Buffalo’s city population exceeded half a million. That region has about half of the manufacturing jobs Rochester has, so it stands to reason why Albany threw them a bone.

    I’ve tired of the “us vs. them” mentality in NY, but it continues, and it hurts all of us in Upstate. NY has turned into a balkanized, provincial, and insular place. Our betters fight over state and federal funding, while private investment has fallen off a cliff in places like Rochester, with the exception of downtown real estate and some really small, boutique businesses.

  11. May 22, 2016 at 10:28 am carl spackler responds:

    I tried to get an answer for your question from COMIDA, but their response, through their lawyer, was “No Comment”. I was going to ask them why there is a plethora of subsidized retail developments that merely transfer where locals spend their finite resources as opposed to any actual industry, but I felt I was only going to get the same answer.

    Wonder if anything came of the rumored joint FBI/AG raid of COMIDA offices a few years ago where documents and computers were allegedly seized.

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