Buffalo's Billion Dollar Advisor

4:44 PM, Mar 22, 2012   |    comments
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Buffalo, N.Y. - The man who will advice Buffalo on how best to lure companies here with that billion dollar commitment from Governor Cuomo is getting a first hand look at the area.

Bruce Katz and the governor worked together in the federal department of housing and urban development.

Katz works now for the Brookings Institution, a major Washington think tank where his specialty is improving the competitiveness and prosperity of cities and areas.

Hmmm, I wonder what area could use that kind of expertise?

Scott Brown: "People here will say the three top priorities are jobs, jobs and jobs, what can you tell them about creating new jobs?"

Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution: "I think they're absolutely right. I would say the priority for the country and the Buffalo metropolis is more jobs. You want jobs that pay better wages with better benefits.

"You need jobs that are accessible by skill, so we need to train people for jobs that actually exist and are accessible by geography, people actually have to be able to get to work in a reasonable period of time in a world of four dollar a gallon gas."

Under the governor's plan, the billion dollars is to be used as a way to leverage private investment and lure companies here.

Scott Brown: "You may know there's a good deal of skepticism and cynicism here when it comes to big government projects."

Bruce Katz: "First of all I appreciate the skepticism and cynicism because there's a long history of efforts, the silver bullet, the magic bullet. I think government has an enormous role frankly in job creation and economic growth, it sort of sets the platform for private sector investment and attraction."

Katz spoke on Wednesday to community leaders at Channel 17.

Thursday, he'll meet with members of the area's Regional Economic Development Council.

Scott Brown: "Do you envision ten projects of $100 million each or have you not gotten that far?"

Bruce Katz: "Whether that's ten interventions or more or less really depends on the evidence base. Any successful city and metropolis needs to have a quality, livable place, which you have, in order to attract and retain talent."

Scott Brown: "There's been some question as to whether this money would be spent in the city or the suburbs, how do you see it?"

Bruce Katz: "I don't see the distinctions between cities and suburbs, to me they're completely integrated. We're in a world where Chinese metropolitan areas are 20 million people. A lot of the traditional fights between city and suburb are not as meaningful in that kind of world.

"What makes you special, I think that is the central question to every city and metropolis in the United States."

Scott Brown: "What is it that makes this area special, that we can build on?"

Bruce Katz: "Well I think legacy, location there are only a few border cities in the United States with our largest trading partner. Also, I only think of maybe three places that in the United States- Buffalo, Detroit, New Orleans - where I see individuals who grew up there, people who live there now with an unbelievable commitment to a place. That may be the strongest thing to build on more than anything else because it shows that people care about this place. There is a positive future here, but strategic bets need to be placed."

Katz and the Brookings Institution are donating their services to the Regional Economic Development Council, so there will be no charge to taxpayers.

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