Next time you find yourself in need of a conversation starter, just throw this one out: “What do you think could revive the Buffalo economy?”

It’s guaranteed to ignite passionate discussion.

Everyone has theories about how the region got off track, and everyone has ideas about what will help. And for the most part, everyone is right. There are myriad reasons why jobs and money have fled the region for decades – politics, costs, taxes, unions, climate, the St. Lawrence Seaway, etc., etc., etc.

And there are even more ideas about how to rekindle the region’s economic might, with utilizing its resources and large “silver bullet” projects often leading the list: taking better advantage of our abundant fresh water or cheap electric power, luring a giant manufacturer.

The state has committed $1 billion in cash, tax breaks and cheap power to help with the turnaround. And a building boom is under way, led by the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

These are big, exciting changes that hold much promise.

But another path may be building something from the ground up, by changing the way we embrace risk.

As far out as that sounds, it’s a basic building block of business. Every endeavor has risk, and the willingness to accept it can lead to great accomplishments. Our forefathers took on heaps of risk to make the city one of the largest in the nation, but that appetite has waned in later generations.

Today, some of the city’s most prominent business leaders are helping a new generation of risk-takers with advice, formal mentoring and, most importantly, money.

The city’s tiny venture capital community has started banging the drum for young people to step up, bring in their best ideas and put the effort behind those ideas to see if a business can be launched. From business incubators armed with money and advice, to competitions and some help from the state, an attempt is being made to revive the region’s “go for it” spirit and, in the process, keep and attract talented young people.

The venture capital is largely focused on new high-tech ventures because those ventures are inexpensive and reach maturity rapidly. But there are opportunities in all fields.

In the cover story of this edition of Prospectus, News Business Reporter Jonathan D. Epstein looks at what might be the next big thing for our region.

The red carpet is being rolled out for those with the intelligence, guts and grit to walk the walk.

Special thanks to Deputy Business Editor David Robinson and copy editor Cindy Szymanski for their expertise in producing this edition.