Published December 9, 2014
"This is an exciting time to be in Western New York. And UB is a big part of the reason why."
Not so long ago, Buffalo was routinely cast in the national media as the epitome of the downtrodden Rust Belt city. Now we’re making headlines as one of the nation’s best “role models for resurgence,” as the New York Times put it recently. The Toronto Star has pronounced itself “shocked and awed by the rebirth of Buffalo.” The Washington Post raves about “cranes all around town and local enthusiasm beyond typical civic pride.” And the Village Voice advises, if you’re looking for a mecca for the hip and creative, “forget Brooklyn. It’s all about Buffalo now.”
Buffalo’s resurgence is indeed big news across the nation, and there is every indication that this is a continuing trend. Great things are happening across our city and region, and the world is taking notice. More young, talented people are flocking to Buffalo to pursue educational and professional opportunities here. In October, City Observatory reported that Buffalo—after decades of population loss and brain drain—is now home to one of the nation’s fastest growing populations of college graduates, with a 34% increase since 2000.
Buffalo is also increasingly a magnet for entrepreneurs and innovators who recognize the tremendous energy and momentum gathering here. One powerful illustration is the recent 43North business plan competition, organized as part of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development effort, which has been a key catalyst for the region’s growth.
This contest attracted substantial global competition, but the $1 million grand prize went to a local advanced manufacturing firm, ASi, which was founded by UB engineering alumnus Glenn Thomas, with UB mechanical engineering professor Joseph Mollendorf acting in an advisory capacity.
This is just one great example of the prominent role our UB graduates, faculty, and innovators play in the thriving start-up culture taking flight in Buffalo right now. UB is a key leader in the statewide START-UP NY program, which aligns with our academic enterprise in so many ways—from new internship and entrepreneurship opportunities for our students, to more jobs that attract global talent to our region and create new professional avenues for our graduates, and new pathways for our faculty to lend their expertise to industrial research and development. It is also giving rise to vital new partnerships as these companies tap into UB resources like our New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics; the Center for Computational Research; and the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Collectively, all this progress is tangibly changing the skyline and the atmosphere of Buffalo. There is a major building boom underway in downtown Buffalo—from the massive Harbor Center complex on the waterfront, to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus a few blocks north, where a number of health care, biomedical research, and medical education facilities are being constructed. This includes UB’s new medical school building, scheduled to open in January 2017. Projected to bring an additional 2,000 students, faculty, and staff to downtown Buffalo daily, our new medical school building will position UB at the forefront of academic medicine, and position our region at the forefront of patient care and medical research.
In short, this is an exciting time to be in Western New York. And UB is a big part of the reason why. Across the region, we are seeing many spheres coming into alignment. Progress is moving forward in many key sectors at once, from health care and life sciences, advanced manufacturing and materials science, arts and culture, and information technology. As a world-renowned research university, UB’s intellectual capital and innovation are vital drivers of all this progress.
Higher education institutions—especially research-intensive universities like UB— are critical catalysts for thriving knowledge-based economies. We do this in multiple ways: through the daily impact of our research, education, and discovery; through our economic role in entrepreneurship and commercialization and our partnerships with business and industry; and through our role as a cultural magnet and center for cutting-edge work in the arts.
UB is very proud of the leadership role our faculty, our innovators, and our graduates are playing in helping to make the Buffalo Niagara region an economic, social, and cultural powerhouse for the 21st century.
But none of this happened by chance. It’s a combination of two things: new opportunities coming about in a period of unprecedented investment in the Western New York economy; and a coordinated strategic vision that positioned us to seize these emerging opportunities when they arose.
Over the course of the last decade, our university and our community have united in pursuing a strategic vision, called UB 2020, which has positioned our university and our region at the forefront of major national trends in health care, the arts, and business and industry.
The result: when great opportunities arise—like the creation of the Regional Economic Development Council and Buffalo Billion—we have been able to hit the ground running. The outcomes have already been tremendous for our university and the region we call home. And the future is even brighter.
As 2014 draws to a close, we’re all excited to see what 2015 has in store for Buffalo and Western New York. Together, our university and region are poised to make the most of whatever new opportunities come our way—and to create our own opportunities—in the year ahead.