I was recently asked to be a guest lecturer at a history class taught by North District Common Councilmember Joseph Golombek at Buffalo State College. He suggested I talk about how my Administration has changed the City of Buffalo, focusing on initiatives and investments that impact millennials.
When I became Mayor in 2006, Buffalo was in difficult shape financially with a state-imposed financial control board. I developed a strategic plan to restore the City’s fiscal health, and stimulate economic development and job creation.
I knew change would not come quickly or easily, but I was confident a turnaround was possible.
I started cutting taxes, reformed the permit process, making Buffalo one of the fastest places in the region to get a building permit. We worked with local developers on the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, and began the lengthy process of completely overhauling the City’s outdated building laws into what became the “Buffalo Green Code” this April. Buffalo is one of only three cities in the nation that has accomplished this.
We have made a series of strategic investments throughout the City to stimulate new employment opportunities. A key example is the $60 million Northland Corridor project, which will convert an idle industrial site into a state-of-the-art workforce training center, combined with new business operations.
My administration also spearheaded creation of the Beverly A. Gray Business Exchange Center, on East Utica Street, to assist minority and women-owned businesses.
Another example is the City-led remediation and sale of the land along South Park Avenue, where the $900 million Tesla/Solar City plant is being constructed, creating employment opportunities for up to 3,000 people.
Simultaneously, we continued to work toward our goal to improve the day-to-day quality of life citywide by significantly cutting residential and business property tax rates, reducing the crime rate through community policing, attacking blight through demolition of vacant properties and implementation of neighborhood Clean Sweeps, and working with the Department of Public Works and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to restore our historic parks and parkways.
We also developed key partnerships with our local, state and federal governments to support re-building and re-imagining the City of Buffalo.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and I have worked together along with others who believed in Buffalo’s promise of opportunity. We built strong working relationships with stakeholders, leading to significant investments, including Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative. The Governor provided another half billion dollars to the Buffalo region in this year’s State budget.
There is currently more than $6.1 billion in citywide economic activity which is expected to result in over 12,000 new jobs. Established large Buffalo companies and small neighborhood businesses are growing and adding employees.
Canalside, Larkinville, Riverworks, HarborCenter, places that didn’t exist a decade ago, are now among the most popular destinations in Buffalo, attracting residents from across the City, Western New York, the nation and the world.
Meanwhile, my Administration continues to make strategic investments in neighborhoods, and build on goals of making Buffalo a City that embraces diversity and inclusion, a place where no one is left out or left behind. I was a founding member of Buffalo’s Racial Equity Roundtable. I also added the position of Chief Diversity Officer and the Office of New Americans to my Administration.
A key component of my agenda included creation of the Buffalo Opportunity Pledge, which highlights the importance of our community embracing and supporting our diversity. To date it has been signed by 6,250 individuals and 430 businesses, representing over 200,000 employees.
We continue to support and are a major funder of the Say Yes Buffalo educational effort, which works to improve high school graduation rates, and provide tuition assistance for students to attend college or trade school.
During the Question & Answer session of my remarks to Councilmember Golombek’s History class, a young woman asked me if she and her friends could really build careers and lives in Buffalo after graduation. My answer was a resounding and heart-felt ‘Yes.’
In this season of college graduations, there is no doubt our City will be retaining many more students who were born and raised here, as well as welcoming those who want to be a permanent part of the re-imagined, reborn City of Buffalo.