Interesting article in today's Buffalo News related to venture capital investments in New York State, and how they are significantly lower than other parts of the country (4% of the nation's start-up funding as opposed to California at 48%). This is particularly distressing given our region's advancements in life sciences and advanced manufacturing - we've invested public dollars heavily in the science end of development, just not the business side.
That's not to say that the business community hasn't stepped up. Several years ago, the Partnership started BuffLink for that very purpose - to stimulate commercial outcomes of important life science breakthroughs that happen in our research laboratories. Truthfully, that's the only way that life sciences growth can really be an economic engine for the Buffalo Niagara region. The results echo what was said in the News article regarding the importance of start-ups: since 2001, 1,400 new jobs have been created in the biotech sector, an industry cluster that now employs about 6,500 people here and growing. In addition, UB launched an MBA program in biotechnology and offers training for would-be entrepreneurs in how to start and run a company.
But there's definitely more that can be done. The News article focuses on the state's role in venture capital - we've taken it to a higher level... Washington. The Partnership is part of a coalition of 30 chambers of commerce throughout the Great Lakes region that has crafted the Great Lakes Business Agenda, which focuses on the growth and revitalization of the entire region. A key component of the attention we seek from Washington - in addition to smart border management and investment in transportation infrastructure - is federal investment in innovation throughout the region, for this very reason.
Did you know that the Great Lakes states produce over a third of the nation's patents? That the Great Lakes region accounts for nearly 29% of all research and development in the U.S., totalling over $79 billion annually?(Brookings Institute - A Vital Connection). Where does this vital work go? There's plenty of room for economic development opportunity with the right backing.
Of course, the next step in that process is improving the business climate in Upstate New York, which we talk about here on a daily basis. Private sector investors expect to see a return on their investment, which means smart, strategic financial decision-making is imperative. We need to fix the high-tax, high-regulation atmosphere here in New York State as an important step in keeping venture capital money flowing.