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WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus traveled to the nation’s capital Monday to lay the groundwork for involving Buffalo natives who live here now in a private-sector investment effort to raise at least $10 million.

Over lunch at the posh University Club, Matthew K. Enstice, president and CEO of the Medical Campus, told a gathering of about 20 people that their help would be important to the growth of the campus in the coming years.

“The private sector’s got to drive this,” Enstice said, asking the gathering of businesspeople and urban planners whether they would be willing to invest in their hometown for annual returns of 3 to 6 percent.

“Would that be interesting to you?” Enstice asked.

The Washington stop was the first on a tour that Enstice hopes to take to New York City, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco over the coming months, as the campus hones a series of private-sector investment vehicles by which moneyed Buffalo expatriates could get involved in the growth of the campus.

Enstice’s presentation was short on specifics, but in an interview afterward, he said he envisions separate investment funds possibly dedicated to building housing in the neighborhood, investing in nearby small businesses or supplying “green” energy for the campus. A commercial development fund is a possibility, as well.

The campus is working with the F.B. Heron Foundation of Manhattan – which specializes in economic development in poverty-stricken areas – to develop those investment funds. Estice said he hopes to unveil the funding starting in the fall.

Government funding has accounted for 80 percent of the development funding at the Medical Campus to date, but Enstice said the campus now has to look for private-sector investment for an obvious reason.

“Governments don’t have the money that they all used to have,” he said.

That being the case, “you’ve got to think differently,” said Sean C. Tuohey, investment consultant for the Medical Campus. “You’ve got to develop new ways of getting capital.”

With a revival under way in Buffalo, the leaders of the Medical Campus believe that the thousands of Buffalo-area natives who have left the area but who still have deep roots there could be a ready source of funding.

“What if they could help Buffalo and make money doing it?” Tuohey asked.

Monday’s session was designed largely to whet the appetite of Buffalo expatriates in the D.C. area.

To that end, Enstice said in his presentation that while 7,000 people worked at the Medical Campus in 2002, employment will be 17,000 in 2017.

Three years after that, it will top 20,000 – which is what peak employment was at Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant in the middle of the last century, noted Thomas R. Beecher, former chairman of the Medical Campus.

“You will have 20,000 people in the heart of the city with a lot of intellectual firepower,” Beecher said.

Those in attendance at the luncheon asked several questions about the campus, but Enstice acknowledged that it’s a bit early for anyone to actually commit to investing.

“We’re looking to meet some people who are interested in Buffalo just to start the conversation,” he said.

Enstice said he plans to follow up with personal meetings with possible investors.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com