BUFFALO, NY - It's been almost one year since NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo made his highly heralded "Billion to Buffalo" pledge, announcing his commitment of one billion dollars in state incentives toward economic development efforts in Western New York.
Shortly thereafter, Cuomo appointed a Regional Economic Development Council to formulate a working plan to best utilize the incentives the state is poised to offer.
That council, working through Lt. Governor Bob Duffy, had hoped the governor himself would be reviewing the fruits of its labor by now.
However Duffy, during a visit to Buffalo on Monday, said the Governor has been too occupied with the aftermath of super storm Sandy and its devastating impact on the state to turn his full attention to the work of the council, so their unveiling of the first phase of what they have now dubbed "Buffalo Investment Development Plan."
"A lot of great work has been done on that...but in all honesty one of the biggest holdups for the state right now is all the tragedy in New York City and New Jersey with the storm. I think that has really pushed a lot back in terms of how we've done business," Duffy told WGRZ-TV.
"In a crisis like that everything else has to take a back seat," concurred Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt, whose agency has also been working with the Regional Economic development Council on its plan.
While Hoyt insists, the effects of Sandy have not stopped the members of the council from continuing their work on formulating their plan to present to the governor; he declined to offer very many specifics as to what they have come up with.
"The plan is, I think, at the stage where it will be presented to him in the next few days... (but) let's let the governor take a look at it before I start revealing it to you," Hoyt told WGRZ's Dave McKinley.
Here's what we do know:
Through consultation with the Brookings Institute, the council has identified industry sectors with the highest potential growth in our region.
These would include, among others, health care and health sciences such as those involved at the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus.
Tourism is another sector in focus by the council, and the plan, according to sources , focuses on taking advantage of our Buffalo's border status for potential investment by Canadian firms.
Beyond that Hoyt and Duffy say, we'll just have to wait for specifics.
"The Governor will not unnecessarily delay things," said Duffy. He's back on track with the regional councils, he is visiting with one in Rochester tomorrow, and I believe Buffalo and Western New York will be next week, but the process is moving along very well and when things are ready it will be announced.
Duffy says the state faces tight fiscal times, but doesn't think Cuomo will have to back out of any commitments made to Western New York.
"He's made a commitment to the economic development efforts here through the regional councils, they will be maintained," Duffy said.
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