Western New York was not a big winner among the state's 10 regions competing for the top prize from the latest $738 million in state economic development funds.

But we shouldn't be too upset.

This region has already had its Christmas stocking filled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

And Santa Cuomo did add another $52.8 million in new cash and tax incentive funding, representing this area's piece of the program's latest pot of money. Cuomo wants regions of the state to compete against each other for development funds and tax credits. It's a plan that's working.

Last year, Western New York won more than $100 million, far more than expected. This year top honors went to Rochester, Syracuse, the Southern Tier, the Mid-Hudson Valley and the North Country.

Still, there were a number of excellent ideas pushed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council that were trimmed or eliminated.

Among them: A $1.5 million request for the Buffalo Zoo's Arctic Edge exhibit was reduced to $376,000; a $3 million request for TheraSyn Pharmaceuticals to expand an existing facility was reduced to $2 million; a $1.5 million request for the Finishing Trades Institute of Western and Central New York's plan to expand training space in existing buildings was reduced to $600,000, and a revolving loan and grant fund to help neighborhoods in five counties by the Western Regional Corp.'s Community Revitalization Program will get $2 million instead of the requested $5 million.

But it is hard to complain, given the huge commitment Cuomo has made to this area – including $1 billion for specially targeted job creation efforts. Although it is not all cash, it comes with incentives this area hasn't seen since anyone can remember from Albany.
And as part of that billion-dollar commitment, Cuomo announced recently that $50 million in state money will go into the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as an incentive to attract an Albany-area biomedical research firm.

Praise is also due for the hard work by the local development council and its co-chairmen, Buffalo developer Howard A. Zemsky and University at Buffalo President Satish K. Tripathi. That volunteer effort has produced huge results for Western New York, with more coming. UB's Regional Institute and Christina P. Orsi, regional director for Empire State Development Corp., and her team, again provided outstanding support.

It has been a year and a half since the formation of the regional councils. The Western New York council will continue its double duty, with the regular work of the regional council and the planning and implementation of the governor's Buffalo Billion initiative.

As Zemsky said, the underlying philosophy is local engagement and local decision-making to build a strategy for creating jobs, and then aligning the state economic development dollars with the strategy to achieve results.

It is, indeed, a sea change in the way economic development occurred, or didn't occur, around here for many decades.