Today, the Partnership reaffirmed its position on the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act (PHEEIA) with a letter to state legislature leadership. PHEEIA is the legislation that grew from UB2020, the Partnership's - and the Buffalo Niagara region's - #1 economic development advocacy priority.
Last year, we were successful in passing in the State Senate UB2020 legislation that would've given UB greater flexibility in setting tuitions (and, more importantly, giving UB that money to invest rather than using it to plug holes in the state budget) as well as the ability to engage in public-private partnerships to grow the university. Great legislation that would've provided high economic development impact at no cost to taxpayers at a time when there really isn't all kinds of money to be pumping into economic development programs. The way we see it - give the school a little flexibility to grow and the regional market will respond.
The State Senate responded, but the downstate-driven Assembly, of course, wondered what's in it for them? It was a valid question, but we emphasized that UB2020 was a test run - and that if proven successful, which we all know would be the case - other schools could follow suit. UB already had a plan in place, and the Buffalo Niagara region was "shovel-ready." That didn't fly, so in 2010, the legislation was expanded to include the entire SUNY system and became PHEEIA. And that's good - because now the rest of the state can realize the opportunities that our region has had its sights on for a while now.
We were thrilled when Governor Paterson included PHEEIA in his 2010-11 Executive Budget, and the advocacy kicked into gear. Our role has been to share with the rest of the state what we've been envisioning and why. We've been working with business organizations throughout the state - and in the past couple weeks, we're pleased that our counterparts in Albany, Rochester and Binghamton have come out avidly in favor of PHEEIA. Our Buffalo Niagara 360 program is working with young professional programs throughout the state to advocate for PHEEIA. If this legislation is to be achieved as part of the 2010-11 state budget, the time is now to engage on a statewide basis.
Tens of thousands of jobs, badly-needed public and private investment in downtown Buffalo and an economic impact to our region of over $2.6 billion. That's worth giving a shout out to your state legislators for their support. I encourage you get involved in the advocacy, so that PHEEIA, and as a result, UB2020 can move forward.