Accelerating Upstate: The Next Step

By Tom Murdock:
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which is about to host a kickoff celebration for the area’s young professionals, has released its Accelerate Upstate Action Agenda, the culmination of a two-day summit held (featured here on Buffalo Rising), where almost 300 community, business, and government leaders converged downtown to draft ideas for Upstate’s future. The agenda has been delivered to public officials across New York State, and is now available to the public here.
The Action Agenda focuses on how Upstate can thrive, despite the state’s population and political imbalances.  It focuses on eight key themes:
1) A new attitude toward economic development is needed in Albany:
Each Regional Economic Development Council should head a more coordinated approach between state and non-state economic development groups.
New York State needs to create an environment more attractive for investment by addressing stringent taxes and regulations.
2) Upstate must capitalize on its bi-national location and relationship with Canada:
The leadership of both New York State and the Province of Ontario need to convene to increase their working relationship.
Both sides of the border need to begin looking toward the future of both entities as a bi-national logistics hub.
3) Workforce development programs need to be appropriately linked to employer needs:
The private sector, State leadership, and the federal government must work together to define future workforce needs and take steps to meet them
It is critical that we address both hard and soft skills across the K-12 continuum and into high education.


4) Improved access to working capital is required for innovators and entrepreneurs to grow businesses:
New York State can and should allocate additional funds for early-stage technology companies.
Regional chambers of commerce should serve as matchmakers between private sector investors and startup companies.
5) Both higher education and the private sector can benefit by increasing their relationships with one another:
New York State must work with its colleges and universities to make funding available for capital projects and match degree programs with emerging workforce needs.
The Higher Education Compact should be reformed to provide schools with more flexibility in implementing curriculum changes.
6) Fresh water resources must be protected, and efforts need to be coordinated with neighboring states and provinces:
The federal government should restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
State leadership must engage in Great Lakes issues to ensure New York is prominently considered in future decision making on a national level.


7) The public and private sectors must work more collaboratively across Upstate:
New York should implement policy that will facilitate and encourage public-private partnerships.
The Governor’s regional offices should be realigned to meet ESD and DOL boundaries (consistent with the new Regional Economic Development Councils).
8) Upstate and Downstate can and need to work together on a wide range of issues:
Peers in local governments, business organizations, labor, and employers of all sizes need to collaborate, particularly with respect to issues of common interest such as energy policy, and Upstate “back office” support for Downstate companies.
The State would benefit by launching a “Sister City” program to match Upstate and Downstate communities with complementary industries.
The Action Agenda is designed to be bigger than any one entity; to succeed, it needs the support of community activists, business leaders, local, state, and federal government officials, economic development professionals, and the ten NYS Regional Economic Development Councils.  For Buffalo’s -and Upstate’s – economies to really grow in a sustaining way, we all have to look in the mirror, ask ourselves what our role is, and commit to action. 
To keep the conversation going, comment here, e-mail, or join in the conversation on twitter using #accelerate.

About the author  ⁄ bluedevil


So much crap to cut through, but I'll focus on just one aspect which is my specialty -- angel investing and venture capital at No. 4.

First, there is almost no angel investment money or VC money in WNY. It's virtually dead. So there is no point is trying to match our startups with any local money because there simply isn't any, despite what boosters claim.

Second, there is very little mentoring from experienced serial entrepreneurs. Again, there are very few serial entrepreneurs in Buffalo and few are qualified to mentor startups. UB, however, has a pretty good business accelerator, and there is at least one private one that I am aware of. Still, it's simply not enough.

Third, no chamber of commerce can match up startups with investment money, certainly none in the WNY region. In order to match up with any serious investors, they will have look outside the region, and I seriously doubt they have the contacts to do that.

However, there ARE indeed things that can be done to obtain investment money, but none of them are easy. It's hard work. and it's hard for everyone -- the total amount of private equity available for funding startups nationwide has plunged from about $100 billion a few years ago to just $20 billion today. Startups and SMEs everywhere have a tough time raising money.

Until this issue is addressed, nothing will come of it. (And no, it has nothing to do with lowering taxes).


Right-that was likely the instigator/catalyst, which is now largely privately led.

The Boss
The Boss

Mr. Green, It is hard to criticize how Rocco has invested his handouts. He did not invent the concept of government subsidy, he only uses what is offered. You can do it too.


This was a cynical "what's in it for me?" session on how to direct tax money into pockets. "HOW CAN I MAKE MONEY OFFA THIS REGION??" is the only subject at hand. Now watch Rocco's minions give me a bunch of thumbs down.


how can they be upstanding when they're sitting?


the "massachusetts miracle" (or, more accurately, the rt. 128 miracle) had mostly to do with scoring increased defense contracts. so much for the free market and less government intervention.


So far the theme descriptions sound like a lot of cliches & platitudes we've heard before many times. At least they didn't use the word synergy.

I'll hold back on serious praise or critique until they announce anything more specific, but for now I agree with travelrrr's first comment above. Very well said. If they let me vote on here, I'd even +1 it !


where do you hear whining? I was commending their work/plan, but was also pointing out that business development activities, as they were, have not worked over the past 50 years as they have mostly been top-down. Boston, Silicon Valley,etc. have all thrived in the early stage business environment due to a robust free market, innovation, etc. Less government intervention on that level is more.

Not sure why you are so defensive.


@ travelrrr - do you actually read the articles or just look at pictures? This has little to nothing to do with the regional councils, and by the looks of it, THE VERY FIRST THEME hits exactly on what you are whining about - enhancing the environment for business. I don't see anything about free money or hand-outs. You whine about helping entrepreneurs, look at theme 4. Stop looking at pictures and read the article.


All of these items are very important however the education/workforce development #3 is key. The new economy of the united states is based on skills that many do not have. The regional winners will be determined based on the talent pools that they cultivate. New York City recognized that they science and engineering talent pool was low compared to Silicon Valley and Boston. This hindered the deveopment of small tech companies in new york city. So they had science and enginnering schools compete to build a campus on city owned land. The inital results on the bidding process were very impressive. With multinational collaboration between worldclass universities.

It is this type of forward thinking that will help transform the region for the next century. UB2020 is great, but it will take further comittment and ivestment to cultivate and attract the type of talent that will grow the economy and built a sustainable future.


Why would we do a sister cities program to connect to Downstate cities? Why would we tie our industries with the downstate economy? If I do recall it was us who avoided recession, and it was their industries who failed.

I'm not saying its been perfect up here, but in order to thrive as a state, we need to has a diversified economy, not one reliant on New York City


All of them are seated together & hoping to see how to get more free, public money to "accelerate" itself into their pockets, with Rocco at the head of the pack. His performance at the recent convention was disgusting; it was nothing but "the City needs to give ME this and this and this so I can sell more apartments". Greedy tools should give to themselves.


It is great that discussions and planning sessions are taking root. Fortifying infrastructure, building deeper alliances with Canada, creating tax incentives, etc. is exactly where these efforts should be focused.

However, as we have seen over the past 50 years, top-down/government and agency-led business/economic development plans fail-they are inefficient, bloated and often corrupt. Business development, like every other movement in and around WNY, needs to be started from the ground-up. Let the market and entrepreneurs function...and they will deliver.

These councils can be most effective if they simply work to create a more business-friendly environment (lower taxes, incentives, infrastructure support, etc.) Stay out of the rest.

(PS-nice two see the picture of two upstanding business leaders seated together).

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