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Patterson Calms Concerns over Committment to Upstate

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – David Patterson's first trip to Buffalo Thursday as governor of the state began with applause and ended with apprehension.

Many of the region's top movers and shakers filled the third floor of a vacant warehouse in Buffalo's old first ward that is the future home of the Empire State Development Corporation. They didn't seem to mind the chill in the unheated space as they eagerly waited to hear what the governor had to say.

And it didn't take long for Patterson's words to warm them up.

"I want to make it very clear that this is a family of New York and at a time when there are problems in an area where our family members live, other family members have to step up and protect them," said Patterson. "And that's what we're going to do right here in Buffalo."

Patterson pledged to protect the one billion dollars earmarked for upstate revitalization. Seemingly as evidence, it was also announced that Tops Markets is getting a $1.2 million state grant to move its headquarters to Amherst, preserving 145 jobs and creating 140 new jobs.

The crowd was in a good mood hearing all the good news, readily laughing at Patterson's frequent jokes.

But a funny reference to being a puppet after a whispered reminder from Mayor Byron Brown was almost a precursor to their meeting later in the day.

Patterson said Buffalo would not get all the aid it was promised by former governor Eliot Spitzer. Patterson didn't say how much the city would lose. But the governor said the state's economy is more "horrific" than anyone wants to admit.

He compared the wall street and sub-prime mortgage melt downs to the savings and loan debacle, saying our current problems are worse.

Patterson said Spitzer's budget was simply too high and everyone must sacrifice to close the $4.6 billion budget gap.

But the state's economic development czar Dan Gunderson said he is not worried about that cutting into upstate investments.

"We've been working hard for little over a year now and making some great progress, getting some traction and momentum," said Gunderson. "We need to see that through and the governor is fully committed to it."

Gunderson said he has also been able to quiet any jitters among those who are on the fence about investing in Western New York.

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