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Entrepreneurs explore "blue economy" opportunities

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Even as the Buffalo region experiences what many believe is an economic resurgence, some are convinced more efforts should be made to capitalize on water resources to create jobs and expand businesses.

This goal was a motivating force for the creation of the Entrepreneurship in the Blue Economy certificate program at SUNY Buffalo State. The six-week program began February 25, and officials expect to offer another series of seminars in late summer or early fall.

Susan McCartney, director of the college’s Small Business Development Center, told  WBFO one of the main objectives is to help entrepreneurs to see the business potential of the water.

"People know it exists, because we’re a water based economy in Buffalo --  that we have the lakes and the river," McCartney said.  "But there needs to be and must be water-based opportunities.”

Dozens of local businesses that depend on water usage signed up for the first series,  including a business that  produces spirits and a firm that roasts coffee beans. McCartney believes smaller outfits can often benefit from the blue economy in ways large corporations cannot.

“Innovation and the ability to maneuver quickly within an opportunity tends to occur with small businesses, " she explained.

Nearly 30 participants are exploring marketing strategies,  creative problem-solving, financing opportunities and other issues relating to the blue economy.

But understanding the potential that the blue economy offers entrepreneurs is just piece of the puzzle, McCartney said. Small business owners also need technical assistance and counseling to "actualize" what they're learning in the Thursday evening seminars.

McCartney is convinced if more businesses can receive the tools needed to capitalize on the region's vast water resources, it could have a major impact on the economy.

“It’s part of the wave --  pardon the pun -- of our economic development that’s currently happening in Buffalo...and Western New York," she said. "But we think that blue economy is going to be one of the most important sectors that we’re going to witness in the next 10 years."

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