Monday, December 19, 2005

Buffalo's Return?

Craig responds to a series of articles that the Buffalo News has run all year, under the umbrella title "Why Not Buffalo?", as in, "Other cities are doing OK. Why not us?"

Lots of answers have been explored in the series, and a lot of optimistic developments have been cited, as well as a lot of creative new directions for a city that's often seen as old and decrepit. But as Craig notes:

Local opinion is still focused on building the trappings of a successful city and not on the underlying reasons for our lack of progress (poverty and population loss.) Chief among those reasons is our local and state governments' crushing tax burden that makes businesses here uncompetitive and dissuades outside companies from locating here. Area development crusaders do want governmental reform, but what they're calling for is reform of the process -- how can we get government to deliver all the services we have now more efficiently?

The majority of them rarely if ever, mention those taxes and regulations. Now, it is true that recently we've seen some recognition here that small business -- entrepreneurialism -- could play a key part of Buffalo's economic future.

That's right. There is a lot of good stuff going on, but a true Buffalo resurgence can only happen if New York State in general adopts a more business-friendly attitude. There's no getting around it: entrepreneurship isn't going to "play a key part". It's the ball game. Now, we can look at this as either New York making it too hard for businesses to start up and stay in business, or we can look at it as other states making it easier for businesses to start up and stay in business, but what really matters is that the businesses are starting up someplace else, and there's a reason for that.

The real answers to "Why not Buffalo?" can be found by going to business owners all over the country and simply posing that very question.

Now, I'm no faithful Capitalist -- I do believe in regulation of business and progressive taxation and government services and all the rest of that. But it's got to be clear that the scale has tipped too far toward government in this state. People don't live in a place because of government. They live in a place because they can live there. Too many people don't believe they can live here.

As I pointed out on Craig's comments, I think that the series of articles in the News actually did provide a valuable service: they've played a part in rekindling some optimism around here. If anyone's going to take on Albany and get the business climate in Upstate NY changed, they're going to have to be optimistic first.

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