January 15, 2015

2015 Opportunity Agenda: Restoring Economic Opportunity

2015 Opportunity Agenda: Restoring Economic Opportunity

Re: Revitalizing Upstate New York's Economy

Date: January 15, 2015


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today presented the second part of his "2015 Opportunity Agenda" – a $1.5 billion Upstate New York Economic Revitalization Competition to help continue to restore economic opportunity to regions across Upstate New York.

This competition will replicate the successful Buffalo Billion initiative, a program that focused on jumpstarting the economy of the entire Western New York region. The proposed competition uses the Buffalo Billion’s proven model to deliver results and drive community revitalization, job growth, and population sustainability across upstate New York.


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Projects exhibiting region-wide impact will be made a priority and should focus on strengthening critical infrastructure, revitalizing communities, bolstering workforce development, growing tourism, and improving quality of life. The competition will combine the expertise and structure of the Regional Economic Development Councils with successful elements of Western New York’s Buffalo Billion to develop regional investment plans that identify existing assets, highlight needs and recommend areas of opportunity.

Seven regions are eligible to compete for one of three $500 million upstate revitalization funds: Mid-Hudson, Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, Central New York, North Country, Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

Governor Cuomo today also announced the appointment of Richard Tobe, currently Deputy Erie County Executive, to serve as Director of Upstate Revitalization and lead the efforts of the competition. Mr. Tobe’s experience includes having served as Commissioner of the Buffalo Department of Economic Development Permit and Inspection Services and as Program Vice President for the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Mr. Tobe will be transitioning out of his current position in order to assume this new role.

The competition and process for winning upstate revitalization funds will be guided by a five-member Strategic Plan Review Committee comprised of:

  • Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution
  • Marc Morial, President, National Urban League
  • Cesar Perales, New York Secretary of State
  • Susan Christopherson, Professor and Chair of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University
  • RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, Office of General Services

Upstate regions have experienced a dramatic economic decline in recent decades. Governor Cuomo has made reviving the Upstate economy a top priority, utilizing targeted programs such as the Regional Economic Development Councils, tourism investments, targeted support for niche industries like yogurt and beverages, and nanotechnology research and development. However, regions across Upstate still require coordinated plans and new resources to fulfill infrastructure needs, achieve targeted job creation, and maintain a high quality of life that will sustain their populations.

In 2012, recognizing the potential for growth in what was Western New York’s deteriorating economy, Governor Cuomo unveiled the Buffalo Billion to attract new jobs and investment to the area and create new energy and excitement about the region's future.

Three years later, Western New York’s economy has rebounded with:

  • $11.3 billion in regional private investment;
  • 3,772 jobs and 812 new firms moved into the area;
  • Four percent increase in total regional wages.

Because the challenges faced by Upstate regions and solutions for revitalizing them vary, the Upstate New York Revitalization Competition will provide an opportunity for a range of projects to be eligible for funding. Awards will be primarily given as grants, but existing tax credits and loan programs may supplement or replace certain awards where appropriate. Awards for major infrastructure projects will be limited to those with a catalytic impact on community revitalization.

Between now and April, regions will plan and engage parties interested in participating in the competition, which will formally launch on April 15th. Submissions will be due July 1st and winners will be announced in the fall.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

New York City Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418