Regional Economic Development & Equity

Strategic priorities.

Strategic priorities

This study focused on investigating economic development opportunities for four cities along the New York State I-90 corridor: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany. 



Karsten Brooks, Daniela Leon, Jilong Li, Christopher Platt, Gerardo Rivera, Tyler Scriven, Ian Stern, Erik Woyciesjes, Xieyang Xing, Sydney Zuckerman



URP 581/582
Spring 2020



The I-90 Corridor

Through the analysis of economic clusters, Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) strategies, and economic profiles for New York State (NYS), the studio proposed a series of development and policy recommendations that would leverage economic growth through strategic investments and amplify equitable outcomes. 

Historical Trends in Equity and Growth

The objective was to understand the historic and current economic trends in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse in order to assess their respective regional strategies. Data collected regarding location quotient (LQ), tradable sectors, and trends in the gross domestic product (GDP) from 2001 through 2018 were used to analyze the effectiveness of regional strategies. Findings built upon the current economic growth and investment strategies outlined by respective REDCs and expand on opportunities for increasing the role of equity in regional economic growth.

Graphical representation of the city’s location quotient by industry and GDP was created using data extracted from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This serves as a template for a SWOTstyled analysis that assesses regional strategies as they relate to industrial concentrations or clusters around the state. The reason for this framework of analysis is that it aligns with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s economic development strategy, providing an established platform for a detailed discussion on its various performance indicators and their relative success.

Regional Strategies

The formation of 10 regional councils in New York State has provided regional strategies that use the aforementioned cities as cornerstones for a clustered development strategy that aggregates investment into related industries and produces competitive businesses and labor markets while simultaneously addressing downtown revitalization and growing social concerns. This approach was developed by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter.

Respective Policy

Using network analysis, PICS (Pioneering, Innovation, Converting, and Strengthening) analysis, and Porter’s diamond model, the study seeks to identify a series of factors: demand conditions, factor conditions, related and supporting industries and content for firm strategy and rivalry. This type of assessment structure provides an appropriate platform to investigate the current regional policy and strategy as it relates to Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse with the purpose of developing a reproducible way to assess urban growth within the context of the region but against the conditions of competitive markets.

Along with developing strategies for economic development based on historical trends, this report examined factors of community equity, better guiding our recommendations. This focus is included to ensure that the strategies we develop serve the communities best.

Buffalo Case Study

The city of Buffalo makes up almost a quarter of the population of its Metropolitan Statistical area (MSA). This population on average has a lower median household income, higher rates of poverty and unemployment and is more racially diverse. Half of households in Buffalo have incomes under $35,893; similarly, 43.34% of households are under $30,000, 37.51% are under $25,000, 30.51% are under $20,000, 23.74% are under $15,000 and 13.54% are under $10,000.

Post-Industrial Legacy Cities

A regional approach to economic growth has become increasingly important within the context of post-industrial legacy cities, and Buffalo is leading the momentum. Ongoing investment strategies within the city and the MSA are becoming progressively aligned with broader regional goals across WNY. This comprehensive approach stimulates coordination in investment between jurisdictions on key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and higher education. The smart growth approach unfolding aims to build upon the region’s strengths in industry specialization (LQs) while addressing some of the key challenges surrounding the available workforce and their level of skill, as well as talent recruitment and overall competitive potential. Buffalo in particular has focused on leveraging existing assets such as tourism, the concentration of advanced manufacturing industries, and arts and entertainment. As shown in our PICS panel, Buffalo’s LQs in finance and management, followed by educational services, manufacturing and healthcare, are all highly concentrated in contrast to national averages indicating an opportunity for continued investment in these areas. Furthermore, economic opportunity for Buffalo and the MSA presents itself in the GDP rates of employment in the accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment, and recreation growing stronger each year.

Geographic Advantages

Buffalo is uniquely positioned to catalyze regional growth for a host of other reasons including its geographic location within 500 miles/800 km of 40 percent of the U.S. population and its sizeable area comprised of eight different counties. The city’s proximity to the Canada border also makes it a bi-national gateway for commerce, business, and entertainment hubs. Current plans also involve economic and environmental justice strategies such as the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund aimed at improving economic conditions for Buffalo’s particularly vulnerable East Side residents; designated Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) for remediation; and the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s comprehensive, citywide green infrastructure program known as Rain Check. Current efforts are tapping into the generative potential of existing strong industries, workforce preparation, and entrepreneurship, all of which strongly assert the competitive edge of the city and, in turn, WNY as a whole. As economic development efforts continue to unfold, policy-makers and planners can make use of our PICS panel to monitor performance and tailor strategies to the needs of the region. However, we posit that policies and projects implemented must also consider the role of equity and their impacts on marginalized communities such as the poor, elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities. While economic development has the potential to bolster the region, it is vital to create an inclusive and diverse tide. Studies show that metro economies exhibit faster, stronger, and longer growth spells when prosperity isn’t limited to just a few segments of the population. A more dynamic economy with regard to labor force, innovation, and the industry generates more jobs and economic opportunities for more people.