Business is booming in Buffalo – with a little help

Programs to support local start-ups indicate a promising trend


As Buffalo continues to attract an influx of college graduates looking for work and establish itself as a location for incoming industries downtown, the importance of small businesses to the economy cannot be overlooked.

Fortunately, there are several programs in Buffalo that emphasize the role of small businesses and support up and coming companies.

But the success of these initiatives is far from guaranteed.

In October, 11 companies won $250,000 to $1 million each in a business plan contest run by 43North, a state-backed organization that helps funds entrepreneurial development in Buffalo and Western New York, as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.

The program sounds incredibly promising, as it directly supports Buffalo residents and encourages local development and serves as an example of the potential effectiveness of the Buffalo Billion.

But currently, progress is being stymied as the companies who won funding are still waiting for their second installment.

Some of the companies have been waiting since the beginning of April and the delay is becoming increasingly problematic, as the cash flow with which to pay vendors and support the start-ups begins to run out.

Although many of the individuals running these companies – working in fields including biotechnology and software development – have been patient so far, the delay is disheartening and reflects a level of incompetence that shouldn’t be coming from a state-backed, high-stakes initiative.

But the initiative itself is encouraging, as it demonstrates a commitment to local business development in Buffalo – as does the Queen City Pop-up program, which is in its second year of promoting small businesses.

The program, run by the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, offers free retail space and promotion for two months, in order to help boost sales and customer awareness.

This initiative, which is refreshingly straightforward, demonstrates the vast impact that even a brief period of external support can have on a small business.

The success of the first businesses to participate in the program makes that readily apparent.

The first series of the program, which was hosted downtown in the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre, resulted in 50 percent increase in sales and as much as an 80 percent rise in new customers for the participating businesses.

This second effort will feature five new businesses, including an event planning company, a graphics firm, and several equipment and apparel shops, in a location at 635 Main Street.

The diversity of these businesses is laudable, and allows for a variety of customers to benefit from the initiative.

And the location selected for this round of the program is also intelligent, as the Main Street location is in the heart of downtown and in a high-traffic area near Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

If this round of the program is as successful as the first, perhaps the initiative could be expanded even further, allowing more start-ups to benefit from the support.

It doesn’t always take the Buffalo Billion to support local businesses – sometimes just a few months of free rent can do the trick.

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