Will Cheektowaga benefit from 'Billion for Buffalo?'
Who? What? When? Where? And why?
Supervisor Mary Holtz was particularly inquisitive – and outwardly skeptical – about Cheektowaga’s likelihood to see some of that money when the issue was addressed by Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt at the April 19 Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon.
Hoyt, who was selected by Cuomo to represent the Upstate New York region for ESD, spoke about the governor’s focus on developing the state economy through job creation and making New York State more business-friendly in general, placing a particular emphasis on the development of Western New York and Erie County.
“One of the things that of course we’re most excited about here in Erie County is this extraordinary pledge he’s made to commit one billion dollars to Buffalo and the Buffalo-Niagara region in order to reverse the economic decline that we’ve witnessed for several generations now,” he said.
Hoyt explained the governor’s goals for Empire State Development in general, and the billion dollars specifically, which are to help stabilize and grow existing businesses and recruit new businesses – preferably from out of state – to Western New York. The initiative’s budget for this year included $200 million of the promised billion.
“I can tell you that there is great work that is being done in order to address the very clear demand that this governor has made,” he continued, “that that billion dollars be used to leverage significant private sector investment, and that the ultimate outcome is that it’s transformational to this economy.”
At the conclusion of his statements, Hoyt invited luncheon guests to ask any questions about the matters addressed.
“What are our chances that Cheektowaga will see any of that billion dollars?” asked Supervisor Holtz.
“I think very good,” Hoyt answered before citing the establishment of Geico in Getzville as an example of Empire State Development producing good results for Western New York. “Geico was recruited and they expressed an interest and ultimately came here and created thousands of jobs.”
But Cheektowaga’s supervisor appeared to remain unconvinced, as she indicated that City of Buffalo seemed likely to secure most of the billion dollars’ attention.
“Governor Cuomo has said that this is for Buffalo and that he’d like to see the growth in Buffalo, but the fact is that if a company says ‘Cheektowaga is our preference,’ or if there is a particular site in Cheektowaga that makes more sense, then obviously we’re going to say, ‘If that works best, then we’re going to do it in Cheektowaga,’” Hoyt countered.
To that end, local IDAs were brought up, which are somewhat of a touchy subject in Western New York, as the agencies are often criticized as being unfairly competitive in bringing businesses to municipalities in the region. Hoyt was quick to say that the initiative would be nothing like an IDA, though the two have similar eligibility requirements.
“You read the debates about IDAs, and that the IDA from this town is putting together a package to move someone from that town within our own community,” he contended. “That’s insanity, and that, by no means, is what this is all about.”
Continuing to stand her ground, Holtz asked about Cheektowaga’s eligibility for being one of the communities whose businesses and local economy benefit from the billion-dollar initiative. Hoyt quickly replied with his bottom line:
“If there is the possibility of dramatic job growth – whether it’s an existing Cheektowaga company or any local company – then it absolutely will be eligible.”