Businesses will have yet another reason to locate here in Western New York in the wake of the recent announcement of a $5 million business plan contest intended to attract worldwide attention.
The newest effort will have Jordan A. Levy and a venture capitalist who relocated to the area from Minnesota overseeing the competition.
The contest is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, and organizers call it the largest annual business plan challenge in the nation based on the award amount, with a top prize of $1 million.
Levy, a local venture capitalist who is volunteering his time in providing strategic oversight, will be the competition’s steering committee chairman. Andrew J. Pulkrabek, from Minnesota, will be executive director for the competition.
Levy’s and Pulkrabek’s stellar credentials should instill confidence in the success of this effort. Levy is a highly successful local businessman, native to this area, and is the former chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. He has a long list of successes in the private sector as an entrepreneur and at the helm of local technology companies. Pulkrabek has held leadership positions with biotechnology and medical companies in Minnesota.
Last May, the New York Power Authority approved $5.4 million in funding for the competition, with the funds going to Launch New York for management and distribution. The business plan competition will work independently of Launch New York while receiving administrative assistance from the nonprofit.
For years, this area has been struggling to attract businesses. Contest organizers hope that ideas from investors and entrepreneurs will “turn ideas into funded, high-growth enterprises within the region.”
This region is becoming more prominent on the business radar screen. Major efforts include the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus with its new hospitals and medical school, the $105 million genomic research center and the $250 million drug development project announced in 2012.
Add to that the $225 million state RiverBend investment to remake a former industrial site on the Buffalo River into a hub for clean-energy manufacturing.
Business attracts business, and the contest, still nameless, is another positive sign for the region, thanks to the support of the governor and the backing of local business and civic leaders and private citizens. Their efforts are creating a synergy on the medical campus, downtown and at the renewed waterfront.
This $5 million business plan competition only adds more impetus for business to look to Buffalo.