Accelerate Upstate 2.0

Regulars on Buffalo Rising might remember Accelerate Upstate, the 2011 economic development summit put on by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils were being formed. Accelerate Upstate 2.0 is being held tomorrow morning at Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and will be webcast on YNN.com to allow full access to stakeholders throughout NYS.

Accelerate Upstate was conceived as a means to focus on solutions rather than problems.  300 collaborators worked to develop the Accelerate Upstate Action Agenda, which served as a starting point for the WNY Regional Economic Development Council and its Strategy for Prosperity, which brought more than $100 million in economic development funding to Buffalo Niagara and established the region as one with its economic development “act together” in the eyes of Governor Cuomo.  The announcement of the Buffalo $1 Billion soon followed, and the area’s economic development discussion has been significantly different ever since.

At Accelerate Upstate 2.0, the Partnership will revisit the progress of the last two years, and ask participants, ‘what’s working, and what’s not?’  Internationally-known political pollster (and Utica native) John Zogby was commissioned to poll several hundred employers from across Upstate on their perceptions of where NYS stands in 2013, and will present his findings at the conference. 

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Lieutenant Governor (and Rochester native) Bob Duffy will also be on hand and provide his take on the state of Upstate through an interview with YNN.  James McConeghy, chief financial officer of Chenango County-headquartered and Upstate success story Chobani, Inc. will detail his organization’s experiences doing business in New York State.  And to keep participants thinking forward, Joan Snyder Kuhl, expert on millennials in the workplace (and NYC resident), will present on the future of Upstate’s workforce. 

The speakers will be interspersed with panel discussions on opportunities unique to Upstate New York:

·         Accelerate Upstate Meets the Regional Councils will focus on the impact of the locally-vetted growth plans of the Regional Economic Development Councils, and see what the future holds for each REDC. 

·         One Day’s Trip: How can Upstate take advantage of its enviable market location? Will look at Upstate’s competitive advantages including freshwater, its border location, and proximity to major economic centers including Montreal, Toronto, and New York City. 

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Panel speakers include leaders from private companies, government agencies, the SUNY Levin and Manhattan Institutes, and the Canadian Consulate.

If you can’t&nbs
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make it to Accelerate Upstate 2.0 in person, you can still join the conversation online at YNN.com.  Partnership staff will be monitoring their facebook and twitteraccounts throughout the day to accept questions and input.  Be sure to use hashtag #Accelerate.

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3 comments
Rand503
Rand503

I have no idea why a poll of upstate people is needed to determine what people's perceptions are of WNY. If you are going to poll people, then you should be polling the best people from around the country -- people who are kneedeep in the technology and life science sector. They would best be able to compare Buffalo with other leaders such as Austin, Boston, Wisconsin and other top regions. Plus they would be more objective and would be better to identify what is missing in Buffalo.

But really, you don't need a poll even to say that. All you need to do is gather up the numbers of how many companies have achieved an exit, either through acquisition, merger, or IPO. That's the only yardstick that is worth nothing. If you have a lot, your region is doing great, if you have very few, you are not.

I don't know of a single IPO that has come out of the WNY region in the past 20 years, so that's not a good sign. (Of course, IPOs are way down the past five years, and that's not a good sign for the country, but that's another issue). So if there are no IPOs, are there are businesses that have been exited in some fashion?

Additionally, how many companies have relocated to the Buffalo region? Places like Silicon Valley and Austin are magnets for the best new companies because they have healthy innovation ecosystems. If Buffalo is not attracting companies, then its innovation ecosystem is lacking something. What would that be?

Hint -- it's not beautiful new buildings. Real estate doesn't attract innovative companies. One thing that does attract them is money -- angel investment and venture capital. If Buffalo had a strong private equity component, it would be able to attract companies from all over the country. But Buffalo is quite weak in this area. You don't need a poll to tell you that. So the question is, how can that be boosed?

That's why I have been arguing that part of the Buffalo Billion should include at least $50 million as VC or angel fund to invest in companies. If you put just $200,000 in to a promising startup, you have tremendous leverage to have them relocate to Buffalo.

IOW, Buffalo doens't have to grow it's own technology. This is not cheese or wine the depends upon the terroir to give its quality. There is nothing unique about a Buffalo style of technology that is different from a Cleveland or San Antonio style of technology. No one opens a software program and says, "aha! Classic elements of the Buffalo-school of programming."

Rather, Buffalo can simply look over the landscape and cherry pick the new technology from whereever -- be it Iowa, N. CArolina, New York or Canada. It's much simpler and cheaper than trying to "home grow" companies, actually, and it has a better success rate.

Instead of spending another $50 million on yet another shiny new building, that money would be better used to create a fund and then invest in new companies, something of which all new companies dearly need, and there is a huge lack of around the US.

If you want to put Buffalo on the map, announce a $50 million fund. That will get instant attention from the biggest players in the industry overnight. Why? Because half of all VC firms that existed five years ago are now out of business. Almost all the money that has been raised in the past five years has been raised by just three VC firms. Most are winding down, and there no one raising a fund anymore today.

Just having a fund will push Buffalo to the top ranks of the technolgy and biotech industry.

RaChaCha
RaChaCha

Here's a very timely example of what Upstate is Upagainst in dealing with state government and policies:

@TUCapCon: State Sen. Liz Krueger (D) wonders if Rochester would establish an income tax for commuters who work in Rochester.

That's a tweet from a hearing today -- yes, in 2013. Krueger is a state senator from the east side of Manhattan, speaking in response to Rochester Mayor Tom Richards' Senate testimony on the financial straits of an Upstate city with a property tax base shrinking below the point of being able to sustain city services.

While I'm not necessarily tax-phobic, the fact that her immediate thoughts on hearing this problem are "how about adding another tax?" and "how about doing what we do in New York City?" speaks volumes. The insouciant ignorance is shocking.

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