America’s 20 Can-Do Cities

Buffalo has scored 60.43 out of 100 points to land a #9 spot on a list of 20 Can-Do Cities. Taking into consideration sustainability, livability, transportation and infrastructure, and business development, Newsweek ranked the performance of the nation’s 200 largest cities and Buffalo placed near the top. Criteria included unemployment figures, Moody’s cost of doing business, air pollutants, green buildings, health care and small business growth rate (see criteria, scoring and intro to top city rankings here).

I’m liking the image that the photographer chose to represent Buffalo, because it tells the story of one direction that Buffalo has been taking that appears to be working quite well. The photo is of a Buffalo First! Buy Local sticker adhered to the window of Betty’s Restaurant – you can even see co-owner Carroll Simon in the background. When Betty’s first opened on the Lower West Side it took the neighborhood by storm. Since that time the business has been growing steadily, endearing residents to its food and business acumen – slow and steady wins the race. 
Small businesses in the city have been beating out the chains – an i-HOP was recently taken over by Tokyo 2 (started on Elmwood), and there’s a rumor that another chain might be closing nearby. All the while, numerous locally owned restaurants continue to spring up in North Buffalo. It’s exactly what the Buffalo First! sticker represents – when you spend your money at locally owned businesses, that money STAYS in the local economy and circulates. That is a message that numerous local organizations have been driving home for years now. One thriving local business may generate numerous benefits to the immediate neighborhood – case in point Betty’s Restaurant and the overnight turnaround that the neighborhood experienced partially due to the ongoing commercial investment of that business. The investment signals to neighbors who think along the lines of, “If a growing business believes in this block, then so do I… I think I’ll paint my porch next year.”
Keep up the good work Buffalo. This holiday season please make a concerted effort to buy locally. Yes, the Internet may be easier sometimes, and the chains might have lower prices in some instances, but in the end if we want to grow our local economy then we all need to go the extra mile to do so. 
1-Newsweek-Buffalo-Betty's.jpg
Total points allotted was 100. Each category allotment was 25.

About the author  ⁄ NeilGarvey

37 comments
WordUp
WordUp

I wish I had the time. Maybe later. If you have Lexus Nexus there are a bunch of scholary papers on the subject, I beleive the journal of urban economics has done some studies on it. I'm sure Google will offer a storyline, albeit skewed in one direction or the other.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Ah I see. My comment was going along with what Dan wrote about using site planning and design standards to discourage replaceable "my way or the highway" companies.

Can you share with us what happened in San Fran?

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I guess I am not clear-what was/is the "disaster" in San Fran to which you refer (honest question)? Because, every time I go there, I see a city with almost unparalleled growth, a high level of social consciousness and an amazing quality of life. Tremendously expensive, yes....

Compare that to NYC, where there is either a drug store, bank or coffee chain on ever corner. Two different experiences....

WordUp
WordUp

Dog:

I don’t think I disagree with you, nor do I really have an argument with zoning, in fact, I would generally agree with you.

My issue is with the implementation of an ordinance in Buffalo "that supports local establishments and, in the process, discourages proliferation of chains” Sounds like code word for "formula retail" which is proven to sink all ships and detrimental to overall economic health of the retail sector. This is what I want to avoid. Again, look what happen to San Francisco, it is a total failure for everyone.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

I encourage you to visit NYC and see how many mom and pop storefronts are left-very, very few. The main drags are now littered with CVS's, Duane Reed's, Citibank's and Starbucks. Why? because they are the only ones who can afford the astronmical rent. I can assure you that this is a quality of life issue and many people are disheartened by the fact that the authentic storefronts are now gone.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Karl> "I just don't think the city is the position to choose who comes and who doesn't"

True. However, it is in a position to chose the nature of new construction. Chains would be welcome as long as they conformed to regulations that make their stores fit in better with their surroundings.

This isn't "civic self indulgence" either as rigid building guidelines are common, especially as you move further away from the city. There isn't any talk of holding back business in Transitville, where things like the amount of parking spaces, sign height, and the amount of people that can be in one room are regulated.

I don't see why it should be such a big deal to use zoning guide development in a manner opposite of Transit Road in more urban parts of the region.

WordUp
WordUp

First Niagara, M&T, Evans are chains as well. I guess we can give HSBC a pass. Catholic Health Systems, Kaleida, hell Rich Products sells their products in national chain stores, so count them in. I guess the best thing to do would be to close everything and figure out what gets to stay.

WordUp
WordUp

I'm not sure I insinuated for the creation of a pro-chain task force. I personally would like to see regulations that allow for all kinds of development. Certainly home grown small business creation is ideal but development in general, whether it is local or national, both help the city in general.

I just don't think the city is the position to choose who comes and who doesn't just to please a few people through some sort of civic self-indulgence exercise. Call it the law of unintended consequences. San Francisco experiment certainly feel the pain of these consequences. So should we implement rules that have proven to cause significant negative economic impact to landlords and stunts the creation of the next Wegmans or M&T because they have growth plans and aspire for national prominence?

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Uh, I'm not going off on anything. If you intended satire, good for you.

whatever
whatever

Arm & Paul, I didn't criticize either side for the shape of Slaughter's district which has been nicknamed the ear muff. Of course it was a bipartisan deal 10 years ago in Albany, and Rethugs/Repukes also got some lines the way they wanted.

But its shape is very unusual to say the least.

Slate.com - not a right wing rag at all - named it to the top 20 most gerrymandered districts out of the 435. See?

http://www.slate.com/id/2208216/slideshow/2208554/entry/2208571/fs/0//

And yes, of course some of those 20 districts are held by R's.

Isn't there enough about what words I actually write for you guys to disagree with, without imagining that I'm picking on Slaughter? Her district does have a very weird shape - many people have said so who aren't hostile to her politics. That doesn't mean it's her fault, or the Dems fault either, and I never said it was.

By the way - about design guidelines, my comments above said nothing. Not one word.

Geez Louise - of all the things for you guys to go off on - one little joke about the ear muff in a comment that was pretty clearly all a joking suggestion about chains! Senses of humor taking a day off?

grad94
grad94

personally, i am relishing a brief media blip in which we beat out new york city, boston, philadelphia, miami, san francisco, chicago, denver, portland, seattle, las vegas, nashville, and every other city that supposedly has its act together.

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

If you had used a Republican in your comment, then I would've been convinced that you were employing satire.

For what it's worth, I don't think chains should be barred from entering a community as long as they comply with all codes and design guidelines. Personally, I think Buffalo could use more national chains and specialty retailers for furniture and men's clothing. On the other hand, Buffalo and western New York have been fortunate that it wasn't too saturated with national retail because a number of cities have suffered due to retail cutbacks.

I wish Tim Horton's would enter the LA market but it ain't gonna happen. Oh, well.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Paul> "Why is that a problem?"

Good question. Lots of municipalities employ rigid design guidelines that mandate expensive, large-scale, and low density development. This can discourage small businesses from setting up shop as they typically like older, smaller, and more affordable spaces.

A local government that takes the opposite approach by discouraging larger scale development, may benefit by creating a better environment for small businesses.

Of course some here feel that rigid requirements that encourage their preferred style of development is okay and the other is worthy of mockery. Perhaps this pro-chain task force can explain why their values are better than those of others.

Wordup, your thoughts?

whatever
whatever

Yes, Dan's point about the constitution looks like it should be common knowledge for people who read blogs. The interstate commerce guarantee is something perhaps taken for granted until anyone suggests something like banning chains or trying to somehow legislate 'buy local'.

Based on your reply, either my idea of redrawing the city line to remove locations of chains isn't as crazy as it sounds, or more likely my satire talent needs another timeout.

whatever
whatever

"we would need to eradicate Wegmans, Teds, Mighty Taco, Spot, Cafe Aroma, Tony Roma's, Mr. Pizza, La Nova, etc. But again, small price to pay"

Might be doable. Teds already isn't in the city, and there'd be only one Wegmans to get rid of.

Could we keep the Poster Art store? I think there's one in Rochester too, so maybe it counts as a chain - but it doesn't feel like one so maybe Roch should be asked to get rid of theirs. Speaking of which, I think I saw an Anchor Bar sign in a burb of Roch recently, so that might be trying to become a chain too. This could be tricky.

The Kettle
The Kettle

Slaughter's district? I know you feel the need to slip Guerrilla Republican propaganda in every other comment here but picking out one rep for a process that is used for all is just silly.

summersh
summersh

studies like this are exactly what will bring people back to buffalo it helps to boost our image to people when deciding on schools jobs and vacations. it's nice to see positive remarks about the city that don't revolve around chicken wings

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

Dan's comment pertains not just to chains but all businesses in areas that enforce these design guidelines. Local businesses and national specialty retailers are treated equally.

Why is that a problem? (If you're going to go down the libertarian property rights road again, I'll pass on the discussion.)

Platt4
Platt4

Don't feed the troll.

WordUp
WordUp

One alternative might be to establish an anti-chain task force. They could go around the city and arbitrary kick out all current chains, simply null and void their contracts. Rip them up right in front of them and say "sorry charlie". The task force could then become part of the regulatory process, so anytime a new business wanted to move into a location they would need to submit a detailed application and then meet with the Task Force, this might add a few weeks to the process but hey New York is anti-business anyway. Obviously they would charge a fee for the review, say $5,000.

Now the down side is we would need to eradicate Wegmans, Teds, Mighty Taco, Spot, Cafe Aroma, Tony Roma's, Mr. Pizza, La Nova, etc. But again, small price to pay

The Boss
The Boss

come on rustbelt, it is just some positive press, that is actually deserved I might add. No one said it is going to bring people back. You have to admit there has been some positive spin lately and it feels good. Can't we just enjoy.

rustbeltcity
rustbeltcity

About what? Moving? For every list like this there is a negative one on it's way out. Sorry kids, this list won't bring anyone back. Also the BK won't be going anywhere any time soon, fast food joints thrive in poor neighborhoods and poor citys.

whatever
whatever

"impediment to interstate commerce, and thus unconstitutional"

Dammit, a 200+ year old document holding us down again.

Ok then how about this - couldn't we finesse the constitution by just redrawing the city boundaries every time a chain invades us? We could keep redrawing our boundary cleverly like the lines of Slaughter's congressional district so we'd kick out chains to burbs while keeping our people and truly local businesses.

Eventually, chains like McD's, Wegmans, Tim's, Spot, etc. would get the message!

LouisTully
LouisTully

That intersection with the Burger King is far less offensive than the adult bookstore/vacant lot with sneakers being sold out of vans/abandoned Dickie's Donuts/empty plaza at the intersection of Hertel-Elmwood.

At least there's business and activity.

defender110
defender110

wow!! what is going on in Buffalo, the city is on the up and up and this is during a recession! The past few years this city has really gained a momentum and people are talking!

Buffalogreek
Buffalogreek

I like Boston Market actually. They have healthy menu items and serves decent food. The Burger King is horrible there. The workers are talking on cell phones and yelling real loudly at each other; I think it is wearing out it's course there. Bring something progressive to the area that will attract people to the Hertel strip!

ke$ha
ke$ha

I imagine it would be the Boston Market more than anything else. The Applebee's up Delaware seems to do pretty good business judging by the parking lot most nights, especially considering it's one of the few sit-down chain restaurants until you get to Sheridan Drive and the Boulevard.

BuffaloBeaux
BuffaloBeaux

indeed. that end of hertel definitely needs a bit more work. but if that burger king was gone, with a new build in its place and the library across the street was reimagined as something along the lines of: http://librarybarla.com/ or http://landmarkrestodallas.com/ it would do wonders for that area! sigh. now all i need is a lot of funding....

Dan
Dan

You can't ban chains. Case law considers such bans an impediment to interstate commerce, and thus unconstitutional. Communities can mitigate chains through strict architectural, signage and site planning controls. This keeps out chains with inflexible trade dress policies; the chains that refuse to fit into and respect the character of the surrounding community. (Drug stores and auto dealers are usually the hardest to work with, in my experience.)

LI2Northpark
LI2Northpark

I would love to see that Burger King close and see a new build to the curb. It would do wonders for the look of that intersection and would look much more welcoming than the current lot.

townline
townline

Probably either the Boston Market or Applebees. I can't imaging either of those do gangbusters.

Chris
Chris

Rising tide lifts all ships. Chains are fine. Investment is what the city needs. There are millions of small businesses succeeding in the face of chains everyday.

If anything more proliferation of chain store developement will signal another chapter in Buffalo's post industral existence.

Do I think if Walmart were to plop down in the cobblestone district and build a big parking lot it would be a great thing? NO. But if they decided to develop inside of main place mall I would be all for it!

The Boss
The Boss

Why so suprised, we know how liveable Buffalo is, we know our region can weather economic woes fairly well and we have always known there is huge support of local business. We have a great college/university culture, parks and recreation, arts, sports and affordable housing. We struggle with government issues and poverty but recently we have seen huge civic response to these issues...Reuse Buffalo, Push and Mass Ave Project. National exposure to our garden walk, architecture and arts scene certainly has helped the image boost too.

US National Triathlon Championship on Buffalo Waterfront this month, Nation Trust Historic Pres. next month. Somebody is paying attention.

BuffaloBeaux
BuffaloBeaux

"and there's a rumor that another chain might be closing nearby"

please tell me its the burger king on the corner of hertel and delaware. please.

Buffalogreek
Buffalogreek

What is rumored to be the nearby chain to close? Buffalo is an extremely livable city. It has so many commonalities to many major cities yet has it's own unique way about it. I love living here.

Travelrrr
Travelrrr

Agreed-these lists are always somewhat arbitrary (but it is nice, and amazing, to see Buffalo repeatedly included in the positive ones now....)

I hope we seriously consider implementing an ordinance in Buffalo proper that supports local establishments and, in the process, discourages proliferation of chains. It seems to be taking place organically/due to market forces, but, nonetheless, I would like to see them get something in the books....like other cities have done.

And, what happened to the concept of a local currency? I know there have been attempts at this in the past, but, as the article demonstrates, I now think the time is ripe.

SenecaFire
SenecaFire

I don't know how we could be placed better than Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon but Buffalo will take it.

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