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About That Billion Dollars...

Western New Yorkers in general and Buffalonians in particular can be seen running around town these days joyously exclaiming, “We’ve got a billion dollars… we’ve got a billion dollars…businesses will boom…we’re saved from economic ruin!”

They’re talking, of course, about the billion dollars that Governor Andrew Cuomo is making available as incentives that area business development “leaders” will be able to dangle in front of outside businesses to lure them into setting up shop in Buffalo and Western New York.

I would caution these eternal optimists who think the area is suddenly “saved” that there isn’t just some automatic billion dollars sitting there on a table ready to go. A lot of creative, progressive, and futuristic thinking and planning needs to go into the salesmanship that will be needed to actually entice business to locate here, which will subsequently release the state funds/incentives.

And that’s the part that makes me worry. Think about the fumbling around with the waterfront plans for a few decades. Or the ill-fated Peace Bridge/Signature Bridge talks that dragged on seemingly forever and ended up nixed after all that. Or the steel-beamed eyesore of a partially built casino sitting in limbo alongside downtown Buffalo since 2008. Or the empty retail space and buildings lining downtown Main Street that once upon a time constituted a busy retail corridor.

All I’m saying is that none of this history is particularly confidence-inspiring. What’s going to be different this time? Do we have the progressive thinking minds among us to pull this local economic recovery off? Is anybody working on this yet? Or are we all just sitting around talking about it and waiting for things to magically happen?

> Phil Schwab, Williamsville

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