In the big picture, it's the state's attempt to jump-start the sputtering high-tech sector here, which has been woefully weak even as the Information Age has spread like wildfire across the country.
Here, the technology sector has been about as hot as a flickering candle, and we all know that those flames aren't nearly warm enough to stop you from snuffing one out with a pinch of your bare fingers.
"We haven't had a lot of tech growth here," said
In broad terms, our technology sector packs a little more than half the economic punch that the industry does across the country. It's also less robust than the tech sector in
"We never did ride that wave up or down," said
Those are sobering figures, and they are important because it means that the Buffalo Niagara region has been missing out on the growth opportunities that come with one of the hottest industries of the 21st century. Those growth opportunities mean jobs -- good-paying jobs -- and I don't have to tell you and all the talented young people who have moved away over the last few decades how badly we need those.
"If we are creating jobs here, people have a reason to stay here," Gov.
Several of those pieces are based on the
"It's a very, very big deal," Cuomo said. "It means jobs, and that's why I also think it has great potential for advancement in medicine with the genomic medical center."
The common thread running through those initiatives, all part of the state's Buffalo Billion economic-development program, is that they are focused on 21st century industries that have the potential to grow far faster than the overall economy.
That's exactly what Buffalo Niagara needs, because our economy has long been a laggard, growing at an average annual pace of just a little more than 1 percent since 2001, while the country was growing by closer to 1.6 percent a year.
One of the reasons for that slower growth is the transition that the local economy is going through, as its old factory base shrinks and our service sector grows, especially in areas such as back-office financial services, where our costs are lower than in places like
In Buffalo Niagara, this fast-growing sector that spans information, communications and technology accounts for only 2.7 percent of the total economy, according to federal data for 2011, the most recent available. That's a little more than half the national average of 4.7 percent, according to data from the federal
The information sector, which includes data processing, has expanded here by just 2.6 percent from 2009 to 2012, an average annual growth rate of less than 1 percent.
It is more difficult to quantify technology jobs locally because they tend to be spread across a handful of job classifications, and statistics aren't available for many of those detailed categories. But even with that caveat, the trends are still apparent. If you just look at the information sector, which captures only a segment of the technology economy, Buffalo Niagara gets just 1.3 percent of its jobs from the information sector -- a total of 7,500 positions, according to state
The federal government projects that employment in computer systems design and related services will grow at an annual rate of 3.9 percent during the current decade. That's 50 percent higher than the expected 2.6 percent annual increase in professional, scientific and technical services jobs and three times the 1.3 percent increase for all industries, according to the
Technology jobs pay well, too. The median salary for computer systems analysts, programmers and software developers ranged from
Keith said he thinks that Buffalo Niagara's relatively low wage base, especially compared with technology havens such as
"I've got to believe that software engineers in
Palumbo agrees. He thinks the cost advantages could be comparable to those that helped build the region's solid back-office financial services over the last two decades.
"Just as we were half as expensive in wages as
"This is not the Old Economy that it once was. We've got companies like
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