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$1 Billion Boost To "Buffalo" Seeks To Land Large Scale Employers

3:42 PM, Mar 22, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - During his State of The State Address on Wednesday, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to provide a significant boost toward efforts to bring much needed jobs to Western New York.

However, as has historically been the case with pledges made in the State of the State Address (by any governor) not much in the way of details were offered as to how a such a grand plan might work.

It is clear, though, that the state doesn't have one billion dollars in cash sitting around some place to dole out.

What the Governor expressed was his willingness to commit up to $1 billion in economic incentives to businesses willing to set up or to expand here.

The incentives, for example, could be bundled in the form of an "economic cocktail", including but not limited to grants, loans, tax breaks, and low cost power.

It's also becoming clear that the incentives are aimed at landing a "big ticket" projects, each providing perhaps thousands of jobs.

"We're not trolling for small mouth bass, we're trolling for the big fish," said Sam Hoyt, Regional President Of The Empire State Economic Development Corporation. "I can say with certainty it isn't going to be piece mealed out to little projects throughout Western New York. What we're looking for is a game changing, transformational economic impact for the region."

Hoyt says the incentives could be extended to a handful of firms, or even just one, if its investment here is large enough.

"If General Motors said, 'we're going to create the next line of automobiles and we're going to create 15,000 jobs through this package' that could work," Hoyt told WGRZ-TV.

However, there already seems to be a difference of opinion as to where the incentives could be utilized.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told 2 On Your Side that when the Governor mentioned "Buffalo", it left him with the impression that the economic development incentives should be used primarily to lure business to the city.

"The Governor said to me that his focus is on the City of Buffalo," Brown said, after speaking with the Governor on Thursday afternoon.

Hoyt's comments, though, might indicate otherwise.

"If the Intel Corporation said 'we are going to set up a microchip facility in Niagara Falls, and create 20,000 good paying jobs, that could be the one," Hoyt said, in describing the types projects the incentives could be utilized to land.

"What he (Cuomo) emphasized to me is that he said 'Buffalo' because his focus is on Buffalo," countered Brown. "And certainly, anything that benefits Buffalo, the second largest municipality in the state of New York, the largest municipality in the region, is going to benefit all of Western New York."

If there's one thing which Hoyt and Brown agree on, however, is that the incentives have the potential to bring very good news to the area.

Hoyt says Western New York Regional Economic Development Council will now roll up its sleeves to try and identify where the incentives could be used, with assistance from the Washington based Brookings Institution, a think tank which helps communities identify economic opportunities.

"Will a shovel go in the ground tomorrow? Absolutely not," declared Hoyt. "But will there be very real progress in developing a strategy and moving forward and identifying opportunities within months? Yes."

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer. Click here to read Dave McKinley's blog.

** UPDATE: Thursday evening a spokesman for Gov. Cuomo called 2 On Your Side to clarify that while the incentives are designed to boost the economic fortunes of the Buffalo region, they are not intended for use exclusively within the city's boundaries.

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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