Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo promised to make it rain in Buffalo and he has kept his word. The final slug of the Buffalo Billion – $680 million – is in the state budget.
No one should be surprised. Happy. Thrilled. Excited. But not surprised.
Cuomo has been on a mission. And he had something to prove to Western New Yorkers who had rejected him in the last election. And he’s done it. Huge.
Politicians before him often paid lip service to the inequities in the whole downstate-upstate scheme. But this time would be different. Promises made would be promises kept. And the billion-dollar promise was the largest and most ambitious one yet. It hasn’t been easy.
The governor has taken heat from people in all corners of the state who want to know where their billion dollars is. Skepticism abounded. “You’re not getting a billion dollars, ya know.” Who could argue when the region had been let down so many times before? But this time has proven different.
The $170 million in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits and $150 million in capital spending approved in previous budgets left another $680 million to be delivered. There is no timetable or set plans on how to spend the remainder, but projects are in the pipeline and more ideas are flowing.
The Empire State Development Corp. on Friday approved $168 million in Buffalo Billion funding, including $118 million for the clean-energy and high-tech manufacturing hub planned for the former Republic Steel plant in South Buffalo. The grant will provide more than half of the $225 million that the state has pledged to invest in the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing and Innovation Hub at RiverBend.
The agency approved a $50 million grant for the Buffalo Medical Innovation and Commercialization Hub on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will create a facility that will support drug screening, pharmaceutical development and bioinformatics research and development. The grant is roughly 20 percent of the estimated $250 million price tag for the hub. As previously reported, the hub is being developed by a partnership among State University of New York’s Fort Schuyler Management, the SUNY College of Nanoscience and Engineering in Albany, drug development company Albany Molecular Research and the Medical Campus.
The budget agreement also includes $33 million in funding for the Western New York Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park in Batavia, the first allocation from the Buffalo Billion for a project outside Erie and Niagara counties that falls within the “regionally significant” requirement.
Dreams will continue to turn into reality since the remainder of the money is in the state budget and neither this governor nor any other governor who follows will have to continue going to the Legislature seeking allocations for projects in the Buffalo Billion. Some brave soul could always try to take the allocated money away from Buffalo Niagara. But that would be a fool’s errand.
This is about as solid a guarantee as it gets. And it has done a tremendous amount to re-energize the spirit of the region already undergoing a rebirth. Even as short as a decade ago, it seemed as if nothing was happening. Now, everything seems to be coming together – including the governor’s billion-dollar promise.