Buffalo Economy News
Buffalo’s economy continues to build momentum, with more than $7.5 billion in construction projects either completed or underway in the City of Buffalo since 2014, according to Buffalo Business First, a business newspaper. That figure climbs to $18.1 billion when including projects from the Western New York region as a whole.
Tesla opened a solar panel production facility in Buffalo last year, which currently employs 600, and is ultimately expected to create 3,000 permanent jobs. Tesla produces solar roof products at the facility, and has entered into a partnership with Panasonic, which produces solar cells and modules at the Buffalo plant. The 1.2 million square-feet facility is the largest solar manufacturing facility in the western hemisphere, and has the ability to expand five-fold to accommodate future growth. New York State invested $750 million in the construction of the facility.
While the Tesla plant is the signature project in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s pledge to invest $1 billion in state funds to spur economic development in Buffalo, the “Buffalo Billion” also led to a commitment by IBM to bring 500 jobs to downtown Buffalo, nearly half of which have already been filled.
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
The “Buffalo Billion” has also led to critical state investments at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), a consortium of the region’s top health care, education, and research institutions. The 120-acre site adjacent to downtown is home to more than 17,000 employees due to the completion of several major projects at the campus, including the University at Buffalo’s $375 million new medical school and Kaleida Health’s $270 million Women & Children’s Hospital, both of which opened last year. Roswell Park Cancer Institute, which just completed a $50 million expansion at the BNMC, recently secured United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to begin clinical trials of a possible lung cancer vaccine.
The construction of the university’s new medical school at the BNMC is part of the “UB2020” plan, a comprehensive growth strategy to increase jobs, enrollment, and research funding at the school, the largest public university in New York State, with more than 28,000 students across 3 campuses. In addition to the University at Buffalo, the area is home to 20 other colleges & universities, for a total of 110,000 students and 32,000 employees in higher education, creating a $3.2 billion economic impact.
Capitalizing on its Lake Erie shoreline and historic significance as the western terminus of the Erie Canal, Buffalo has recently made great strides in developing its waterfront. The strategy, executed by all levels of government, has been to use public investment in parks and amenities in order to spur private development.
The centerpiece of this effort is the Canalside project, a year-round destination on the southern edge of downtown. More than 1.5 million visitors enjoy Canalside each year, including the colder months, thanks to its popular ice rink, which is larger than the rink at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. The $27 million Explore and More Children’s Museum, is currently under construction at Canalside, and three additional new buildings are in the planning stages.
Canalside’s popularity has led to more than a half billion dollars in private development in the area surrounding the attraction. This includes HarborCenter, where the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Buffalo Sabres have completed a $250 million project, which includes a 20-story facility with two ice rinks, a 200-room Marriott hotel, retail, and a high-end sports bar known as “716.” Connected to the Sabres’ arena, the Key Bank Center, HarborCenter hosted the 2016 NHL Draft and the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships, beating out Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tampa for the international event.
Waterfront development has also spread past downtown, with recent park projects leading to nearby residential developments on the Outer Harbor and the Buffalo River. Buffalo Riverfest Park and Mutual Riverfront Park has resulted in new apartment buildings on the Buffalo River, such as the $18 million Buffalo River Landing and the $9 million 301 Ohio building. Wilkeson Pointe and other improvements have led to the first residential project on the Outer Harbor, the 23-story, $85 million Queen City Landing apartment building, which has obtained City approval to begin construction.
In October, The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced $100 million in funding for improvements to LaSalle Park, located on Buffalo’s waterfront, as well as a shoreline trail system that connects Buffalo to Niagara Falls.
According to Kiplinger’s magazine, using data from Clear Capital, Buffalo’s home prices increased 20.3 percent from 2006 to 2015. This ranks fourth among the nation’s top 100 metro areas, behind only Austin, Honolulu, and Denver.
Banking & Corporate Headquarters
Buffalo is the home to the corporate headquarters of M&T Bank, which was founded in the city in 1856. M&T is one of the nation’s largest 20 banks, with $81 billion in assets and more than 15,000 employees, a third of which are located in the Buffalo area. M&T’s footprint includes 750 branches in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and Florida. HSBC bank has a major back-office presence in Buffalo, with more than 3,000 employees located in the area. Key Bank, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, and several local banks also have a major branch presence in the region.
Buffalo is home to the headquarters of several major corporations, including Rich Products, Labatt USA, the New Era Cap Company, Sorrento Lactalis, and Delaware North Companies. Delaware North’s new headquarters, an $80 million, 12-story office tower with a 120-room Westin hotel, opened in 2016.
Buffalo’s tallest building, the Seneca One Tower, was purchased in September by the second largest commercial real estate developer in the Washington, D.C. market, who plans to spend as much as $200 million on a mixed-use redevelopment in Buffalo, according to the Buffalo News. Construction has begun on the first stages of the project.
The impact of Canadians on the local economy is expected to increase as the “Golden Horseshoe” region of Southern Ontario (Toronto-Niagara Falls-Hamilton area) is projected to grow from 8.8 million people today to 11.5 million by 2031. An expanded Peace Bridge Plaza was completed in 2016, which will strengthen the region’s ties with Southern Ontario by making border crossings quicker and easing congestion on the bridge. The plan also includes $2 million for improvements to the surrounding neighborhood. Canadians are estimated to make up 40% of the approximately 5 million passengers that use the Buffalo Niagara International Airport each year, supporting 17,000 jobs with $1.1 billion economic impact. Buffalo’s proximity to Canada has resulted in robust retail growth at a time when the retail industry has struggled across the country.