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Assembly Speaker Heastie in Buffalo, getting look at state-funded redevelopment

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Local elected officials believe that the best way to show that the "Buffalo Billion" is working is to show the results directly to lawmakers from downstate. So far, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie appears impressed.

Heastie, who is visiting Buffalo for three days, began a full schedule of visits Wednesday by touring Canalside. Escorted by local Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Heastie got a close look at Shark Girl, walked along the boardwalk and took a ride on the bike ferry, from where he could get a broader view of a redeveloped Buffalo waterfront, made possible with heavy investment by Albany.

It's spending Heastie supports if it can help Upstate regions improve. Available jobs and a good school system, he says, are the two top reasons why people relocate.

"For all of the Upstate cities I'm very pro, in terms of having money come up here for infrastructure, for development, to make it more of a home for businesses who want to come," Heastie said.

Assemblyman Ryan, meanwhile, said showing lawmakers like Heastie the results of state investment goes a long way towards gaining the support of legislators from other parts of New York who may need convincing that the money is being wisely spent.

More than a half dozen other Upstate regions are currently competing for a share of $1.5 billion that will soon be awarded to three of those locations. Ryan was asked if Buffalo has become a champion for other regions looking to enjoy their own renaissance.

"Buffalo has shown itself to be the leader, and that's why the Governor, the Assembly and the Senate had the confidence to invest a billion dollars here," Ryan said. "It's because our regional economic development plan was superior.

"Now, people from other areas of the state are actually looking at the Buffalo plan to figure out how to actually grow your economy."

In addition to touring Canalside, Heastie's stops included the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, meetings with Hispanics United and People United for Sustainable Housing, and a tour of Buffalo's West Side, where he was to meet with people working closely with the city's international refugee community.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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