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Accelerating Upstate: The Next Step

By Tom Murdock:
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which is about to host a kickoff celebration for the area’s young professionals, has released its Accelerate Upstate Action Agenda, the culmination of a two-day summit held (featured here on Buffalo Rising), where almost 300 community, business, and government leaders converged downtown to draft ideas for Upstate’s future. The agenda has been delivered to public officials across New York State, and is now available to the public here.
The Action Agenda focuses on how Upstate can thrive, despite the state’s population and political imbalances.  It focuses on eight key themes:
1) A new attitude toward economic development is needed in Albany:
Each Regional Economic Development Council should head a more coordinated approach between state and non-state economic development groups.
New York State needs to create an environment more attractive for investment by addressing stringent taxes and regulations.
2) Upstate must capitalize on its bi-national location and relationship with Canada:
The leadership of both New York State and the Province of Ontario need to convene to increase their working relationship.
Both sides of the border need to begin looking toward the future of both entities as a bi-national logistics hub.
3) Workforce development programs need to be appropriately linked to employer needs:
The private sector, State leadership, and the federal government must work together to define future workforce needs and take steps to meet them
It is critical that we address both hard and soft skills across the K-12 continuum and into high education.


4) Improved access to working capital is required for innovators and entrepreneurs to grow businesses:
New York State can and should allocate additional funds for early-stage technology companies.
Regional chambers of commerce should serve as matchmakers between private sector investors and startup companies.
5) Both higher education and the private sector can benefit by increasing their relationships with one another:
New York State must work with its colleges and universities to make funding available for capital projects and match degree programs with emerging workforce needs.
The Higher Education Compact should be reformed to provide schools with more flexibility in implementing curriculum changes.
6) Fresh water resources must be protected, and efforts need to be coordinated with neighboring states and provinces:
The federal government should restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
State leadership must engage in Great Lakes issues to ensure New York is prominently considered in future decision making on a national level.


7) The public and private sectors must work more collaboratively across Upstate:
New York should implement policy that will facilitate and encourage public-private partnerships.
The Governor’s regional offices should be realigned to meet ESD and DOL boundaries (consistent with the new Regional Economic Development Councils).
8) Upstate and Downstate can and need to work together on a wide range of issues:
Peers in local governments, business organizations, labor, and employers of all sizes need to collaborate, particularly with respect to issues of common interest such as energy policy, and Upstate “back office” support for Downstate companies.
The State would benefit by launching a “Sister City” program to match Upstate and Downstate communities with complementary industries.
The Action Agenda is designed to be bigger than any one entity; to succeed, it needs the support of community activists, business leaders, local, state, and federal government officials, economic development professionals, and the ten NYS Regional Economic Development Councils.  For Buffalo’s -and Upstate’s – economies to really grow in a sustaining way, we all have to look in the mirror, ask ourselves what our role is, and commit to action. 
To keep the conversation going, comment here, e-mail, or join in the conversation on twitter using #accelerate.

Written by Buffalo Rising

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