ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Economic development officials from western New York said Tuesday that their new focus runs counter to the suburban sprawl of the past 50 years and emphasizes urban centers, especially Buffalo and its waterfront, to attract young people.
Real estate developer Howard Zemsky said the greater Buffalo area has sprawled over three times the land mass it covered in 1960 while population dropped, including a steady exodus of young adults. That has meant higher capital costs and redundant public services, he said.
"How many kids graduate from college and say, 'I want to go where there's great sprawl'?" Zemsky said. Instead, college graduates are looking for "cool" places to live with "urban vitality" and public transportation, he said.
Zemsky, whose company has restored landmark office buildings in Buffalo's downtown business district, spoke at a meeting Tuesday of 10 regional development councils the Cuomo administration established last year. "Our policy's around smart growth for investing in urban cores and talent centers throughout the region," he said.
Another redevelopment emphasis for western New York is training for manufacturing in the region, expected to lose 21.4 percent of its workers through retirement by 2020. Others include health care, as well as a large hospitality industry supported by Canadians, Zemsky said.
Satish Tripathi, president of the University at Buffalo and co-chairman of the western regional council with Zemsky, said they rank among the top 15 metropolitan areas for academic research and development but far lower in venture capital investment, another area they are focused on.
"The national economy sets the current, and the state economies compete within that national current," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, adding that they are segmented. "There's no state economy. There are regional economies."
Council officials for northern New York cited tourism, particularly from Canadian visitors, and prospects for more telecommuting for those who can stay year-round, noting the need for greater broadband access to the Internet.
"You have such attractions in the Adirondacks, I just think people don't know about it, especially downstate," said Cuomo, a Queens native. He announced later Tuesday an initiative to help provide high-speed Internet to rural and underserved urban areas with $25 million in grants through the regional councils.