From Rust to Blue: Buffalo Niagara’s New Economy

Jill Jedlicka is the Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper:
Our water defined our region’s history, and it will define our future.  Now a nationally recognized success story utilizing unique and impactful partnerships, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has established a new platform for our region –   one that is helping drive economic revitalization through restoration of the health and integrity of WNY’s fresh water systems.  
Regional economic development planning efforts, combined with the public and private investments now taking hold, have given this community much to celebrate. Educational institutions, medical and health care industries, hotels and lofts are great for the region but do not make us unique. One piece of the economic revitalization puzzle that is underrepresented in the economic planning for our future is the role of WNY’s Blue Economy. 
WNY’s Blue Economy is more than a catchy phrase, and is responsible for “the other billion” of active investment in our region. For example, the Niagara River Greenway implementation is $450 million; regional sewer infrastructure improvements will hit nearly $300 million; toxic river sediment, brownfield clean-ups and ecosystem restoration already exceed $100 million, and commercial shipping supports $50 million in local business every year. Add to these the economic impact of other water-based businesses and regional tourism.
 
What is even more intriguing to this story is the significant role that non-profits and community-based organizations can play by looking beyond fresh water as a commodity, and not identifying the ubiquitous “waterfront” as just another natural asset to be developed. The blue economy approach has already been proven successful, as evident in the major restoration of the Buffalo River.  Riverkeeper 
incurred organizational risk and utilized an entrepreneurial approach and diverse partnerships to help bring millions of dollars for our region’s waterways. We have brought jobs to WNY and established a clean and viable foundation for transforming our waterfront.
Clean water is a vital asset and one whose value will increase as global climates change. On any given day, our local water resources support recreation, eco-tourism, fish and wildlife, manufacturing, waste processing, power generation, trans-shipment, and provide drinking water to nearly one million people. With the anticipated increase use and desirability of our local water resources, Riverkeeper is working with local residents and community leaders to establish plans to invite sustainable and non-polluting industries into our community.
Advocating for WNY’s Blue Economy is simple, and Riverkeeper has established Five Guiding Principles: 
1) Water is a driver of regional economic revitalization. 
2) Prioritize increased public access and open space protection. 
3) Green Infrastructure is part of the solution to our sewage problem. 
4) Establish the Niagara River Greenway as an international spotlight. 
5) Utilize the power of public, private and non-profit partnerships.
Economic investments wax and wane, but the water will always be here. Let’s work to ensure a sustainable blue economy for the next generation of Western New Yorkers.  
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Jill Jedlicka is the Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, a local non-profit dedicated to the protection of our water quality and quantity and public access to our region’s waterways.

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12 comments
Buffalobooster7
Buffalobooster7

Absolutely.Let's introduce more Phytoremediation along the banks of the Buffalo River this spring/summer.It 's cheap,quick and easy.Sunflowers will pull up heavy metals and an alphabet soup of other compounds.Used at Chernobyl and Fukushima as well as brownfield sites around the world.The seeds aren't affected so it will be edible for birds.Just need to pull up the stalks in the fall.

dave majewski
dave majewski

This is "E2" - the Economies of the Environment. What is good - or bad - for the Environment, so goes the Economy. Very timely article Jill. Thanks.

Woods79
Woods79

You nailed it. It might be 20 years down the road, but the great lake ports will slowly rise again as economies become more local and regional in focus. The 2040s will look a lot like the 1940s, only with smartphones and bike lanes.

Norse1
Norse1

This is a great vision, something I strongly agree with. A blue economy is a unique asset and is the basis for Buffalo's existence. City of the beautiful river can rise again, its a good time to redefine what this means for you who reads this. We lost so many water-related traditions when the grain industry changed its dynamics, but our commercial port is still active and thriving. Soon climate refugees will arrive to the Great lakes, 25% of the worlds freshwater system, should we do our best to have it cleaned up before that happens? Take care of sewer overflow, continue dredging, make the river habitable again, for ourselves, our children and their children.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Material Informatics. It was a proved by NYS just last year. Now they are looking for major private sector companies to pair up with and develop a game plan.

paulsobo
paulsobo

What is the soon to be 2nd center for excellence in Buffalo

Rand503
Rand503

CoE's, like all formulas designed as a an easy fix to a complex problem, have a poor record of actually producing good companies.

Aside from that, I agree with the rest of Paul's post.

Rand503
Rand503

CoE's, like all formulas designed as a an easy fix to a complex problem, have a poor record of actually producing good companies.

Aside from that, I agree with the rest of Paul's post.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Well considering there are currently only six centers for excellence in the entire state, and Buffalo is home to one of them - soon to be two - I don't think you can complain.

Unless you mean something more private/local without NYS getting involved.

I agree Buffalo cannot get enough capital into entrepreneurs fast enough, and the second center cannot be built fast enough.

You also have to remember NYS has more than just one rust belt city to deal with, but Rochester, Binghampton, Albany, Syracuse, etc.

grad94
grad94

lots of buzzwords in this statement.

according to the author, the value of clean water lies in its scenic and recreational potential, when we really need to be planning ahead for an active port, once the price of oil makes long-haul trucking and asian supply chains cost-prohibitive.

paulsobo
paulsobo

Buffalo cannot even pull together the resources to keep its properties in proper maintenance, find walkaway landlords to collect taxes, write laws so they can be expediently enforced through the court system....

Buffalo cannot get most of their CEOs out of their offices to plan the future of the city. It took a control board to do it and with it now gone they returned to their offices and left the incestuous relationship of political patronage and unions controlling the city.

Buffalo cannot even put together a solid grouping of local colleges, non-profits, corporations and governmental agencies to promote growth and create new Centers for Excellence.

THE BLUE ECONOMY...in a epoxic oxygenless lake that once had an abundance of Blue Pike that every city had a commercial fleet. Today your lucky if someone catches 1 fish sport fishing.

There are alot more tangible means to create and attract growth than more environmental green and blue space

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