Gaining Tech Ground

Formidable space separates Buffalo, New York from Austin, Texas.

  • 1,500 miles
  • 50 spaces on the Wall Street Journal 2019 Job Market List. Austin is first, and Buffalo is tied for 51st
  • Over 46 spaces on the CBRE 2019 Research Tech Talent Score Card. Austin is sixth and Buffalo is not ranked

Western New York can learn important lessons within all that distance. Austin engineered decades of growth built on technology sector attraction, becoming known as  “Silicon Hills“ and home to 6,500 start up and tech companies including the recent additions of Apple, Google and Oracle. The city’s cultural, music and tourism assets are bolstered by the private sector’s presence, creating a strong sense of place for residents and a memorable experience for visitors.

In 2020, Buffalo can do more than just look south for tech sector inspiration. We can look up to the Seneca One Building for proof of local progress.

Douglas Development Corporation is renovating the 38-story building into a mixed-use project featuring over 200 residential apartments, retail on the plaza and state of the art office space in the tower. Today’s renovation of the iconic tower stands in stark contrast to recent history. The tower was 90 percent vacant in 2014, skewing the city’s entire vacancy rate and complicating widespread lending and development in the surrounding region.

Douglas Development’s investment and M&T Bank’s vision transformed a bleak outlook into a massive tech win. The project’s centerpiece, M&T Bank’s commitment to creating a Tech Hub and 1,000 new tech jobs over five years, could potentially change the region’s employment sector trajectory. The residential and commercial market will now compete for these new employees’ housing and discretionary dollars, adding more young professionals to the city’s place-making efforts. Public/private partnerships can create a talent pipeline to help ensure that local residents are best prepared to fill competitive jobs in their backyards.

Seneca One’s progress has already spurred innovation. 43 North, administers of Buffalo’s annual startup competition, recently moved its headquarters to the 24th floor of the tower. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown recently announced that Douglas Development will contribute $15 million of property tax investment into the Accelerator Fund, designed to pay for essential downtown infrastructure improvements.

The style of synergy between Douglas Development, M&T Bank and the City of Buffalo is the same that attracts and keeps tech giants in Austin, putting them miles ahead as a live/work destination. Developers are proactively working with major employers as well as with local government leaders to achieve competitive results.

Austin’s road to tech prominence took time, starting in 1962 with the Austin Area Economic Development Foundation’s marketing the city’s lower cost of living for a higher quality of life. Civic leaders collaborated to reduce obstacles to private sector investment and collectively amplify the region’s strong points.

The strategy that accomplished transformational success 58 years ago in Austin is working here in 2020, as Buffalo gains tech ground.