Photo by Diana Robinson.
Photo by Diana Robinson.

IP: Quick Hits

by / Nov. 25, 2015 12am EST

Investigative Post is hosting a panel discussion next week that seeks to answer the question: “Is Buffalo really getting its mojo back?” There’s an inclination to say, “Of course we’re getting our mojo back,” and that is no doubt true—to a degree. But employment figures released last week show that we’re hardly the “national success story” that Governor Andrew Cuomo has proclaimed us to be.

Our job growth continues to lag behind the rest of the county, and the state, for that matter. Figures released by the state for the past 12 months, through the end of October, show the job count grew by 1.9 percent nationally, 1.8 percent statewide, and 1.4 percent in Erie and Niagara counties.

We’re also lagging when you factor out government jobs, which is about the only sector of the economy shedding jobs. Private sector job growth over the past year was 2.2 percent both nationally and statewide, compared with 1.8 percent in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls market.

The good news is that we’re adding jobs at a better clip than we have for long stretches in the past. But we’re still not keeping up with the Joneses.

That’s not what the political class would have us believe. According to Cuomo and Co., happy days are here again. 

Cuomo credited the Buffalo Billion for what he described as an “economic boom” in an interview with the Brookings Institution published earlier this year. 

“This is a seismic shift in the Buffalo and Western New York economy,” the governor proclaimed.

Howard Zemsky, the Buffalo civic leader and president of Empire State Development, added: “The governor once described the crane as an endangered species in Buffalo, now they’re all over.”

Well, not exactly. When I read that quote this spring I got in my car and drove around the city looking for construction cranes. I counted nine. Eight of them stood over projects that are financed completely by the government or nonprofits reliant on government funding. The other crane loomed over the new headquarters for Delaware North, a privately financed project that is receiving oodles of tax breaks.

To put Buffalo’s nine cranes in further perspective, consider that the skyline in neighboring Toronto was peppered last summer with 154 cranes—just for condo projects, according to a story I read at the time in the Toronto Sun.

So, suffice to say, my take on the economy differs from Cuomo and Zemsky. I think the late, great Jim Morrison said it—actually, sang it—best when he crooned, “I’ve been down so long that it looks like up to me.”

Which leads me back to our event on Tuesday. Is Buffalo really getting its mojo back? Granted, I’m talking about more than just the economy. 

I’ve got three experts lined up to debate both the larger and smaller points: Newell Nussbaumer, founder and editorial director of Buffalo Rising; Henry L. Taylor, a professor and founding director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University at Buffalo; and Rocco Termini, president of Signature Development. 

The discussion is set for Tuesday, December 1, at Allen Street Hardware, 259 Allen Street. Admission is $10 and includes a free drink. You can buy tickets at the door or online at InvestigativePost.org/events