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Western NY Regional Economic Development Council Hosts Forum on Growing Advanced Manufacturing

Work underway on Investment Strategy for Buffalo Billion initiative
(July 24, 2012)

Western NY Regional Economic Development Council Hosts Forum on Growing Advanced Manufacturing

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council (WNYREDC), Empire State Development (ESD) and the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) today held its first public forum for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Buffalo Billion initiative, concentrating on advanced manufacturing and workforce development, two sectors that rose to the surface as priorities for strategic development as the Brookings Institution culminated its initial data gathering and market assessment earlier this year. "Filling the Skills Gap: Pathways to Manufacturing Careers Case Study Forum," which was held at Erie County Community College, brought together educators and manufacturers from across the region. The forum, which identified gaps in the region's existing workforce, offered potential national and local case studies for providing skilled workers to help grow the manufacturing sector.

"This important discussion regarding pathway to careers in manufacturing is part of our broader efforts to explore how Buffalo's $1 billion opportunity might be leveraged," said Satish K. Tripathi, President of the University at Buffalo and Western New York Regional Economic Development Council co-chair. "Our goal at the end of the day will be to select a few initiatives that our region can move forward with, or expand on, thereby strengthening manufacturing workforce preparation and placement."

"Manufacturing is one of the early focus areas for the Buffalo Billion that we are exploring and it's clear from today's forum that it is a sector that we must capitalize on to move forward," said Howard A. Zemsky, Managing Partner at Larkin Development Group and Western New York Regional Economic Development Council co-chair. "We have jobs that are looking for people and we have people that are looking for jobs, so there's a great opportunity for our economy if we can bridge the skills gap and fill good paying jobs. Governor Cuomo's $1 billion commitment to the Buffalo area to help transform the economy in a significant and sustainable way is unprecedented and the Western New York Regional Council is taking its responsibility seriously to ensure we deliver results on our end."

The phase 1 Buffalo Billion work (data gathering and organization, initial market assessment, market assessment and strategy development) done by the Brookings Institution and the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) indicated that there is an opportunity for growth in manufacturing, as well as continued regional strength in manufacturing, but to help the sector grow, the region must address a skills gap need. It is clear that leveraging the region's manufacturing base provides a significant opportunity for growth in Western New York. It is also clear that manufacturers today find themselves hard pressed to find the skilled and technical staff they need. In addition, there are projections that up to 10,000 manufacturing workers are expected to retire in the next 10 years in our region, making this issue critical to the future growth of the manufacturing industry.

"The United States is experiencing a resurgence of manufacturing in the aftermath of the recession. Buffalo can compete in this manufacturing moment given its special assets and providing a steady supply of skilled workers is job #1 for the region," said Bruce Katz, Vice President at the Brookings Institution

"This is a unique catalytic moment for regional planning in Western New York. We have the opportunity to plan in a strategic and comprehensive way with the alignment of resources committed to implement the plan in the immediate future," said Robert G. Shibley, dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning.

To facilitate the greatest return on investment and maximize the $1 billion opportunity, it is imperative that a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy that builds off the work of the Western New York Regional Council's Plan for Prosperity is put in place to guide this investment. There is no determination on how the Buffalo Billion will be spent and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council will continue to explore additional sectors.

To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov.

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