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Six years after Albany announced the Buffalo Billion economic development program, the city is riddled with incomplete projects and suffers from a stagnant job market.
The state has invested nearly $1.5 billion in Buffalo so far, receiving an additional $500 million last year as part of a “Phase II.” But a new report from the New York Times reveals that while some projects have been completed, many have been delayed for years or lack any progress at all.
In 2013, Niagara Falls’ “Wonder Falls” resort planned a $150 million project with big plans for an indoor water park and 300-room hotel. The project, which promised 1,500 construction jobs and 300 permanent positions, has yet to begin, and an empty mall and parking garage remain on the site.
Even some “success” stories have hidden snares.
A $750 million solar plant at Riverbend, projected to create at least 3,000 jobs, employs only about 600 people.
Athenex, a Buffalo-based pharmaceutical firm, received a $225 million grant for two state-funded projects expected to generate 1,400 new jobs. Instead, the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission say the plant will employ 450 people, while the Buffalo office employs just 130.
Albany also promised 500 new jobs at an I.B.M. “innovation hub,” yet actual employment is barely half that.
And while construction soared in Buffalo Billion’s early stages, reports suggest that the city’s job market growth has frozen.
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