It’s 43North week! And with that said, this cannot be the first post you’ve seen this week about the contest. Tomorrow (Thursday) is of course the big day with pitches going on at Seneca One Tower all day and the finalists hitting the stage at Shea’s at 6PM. Tickets are free (Vaccine-Only) because this is Buffalo’s event, funded by the state, and 43North’s investors and sponsors, and the shares 43North has acquired in the businesses they’ve chosen as winners over the years.
While all of that has been well-publicized, what hasn’t as much is the evolution of 43North over the years. It came about in 2014 as Albany shifted some of its attention from NYC and towards Buffalo, realizing that having a thriving city in its western end was good for the state, too. And there was controversy. “Lure businesses here? Give them $1M?! What about the ones that we already have? They could use the help!” But it was a bold vision that said, “Hey, we can do both.”
Buffalo had a reputation to shed and needed to work hard to develop a new one. Who doesn’t remember hearing in the 1990’s and 2000’s rumors of steel production returning to town, or pinning our remaining blue collar future to the whims of Ford or GM plants north and south of the city? Other than the slow growth of a handful of corporations, we were clinging to the past and hoping for it to return, when cities like Pittsburgh and Chattanooga had already reinvented themselves and attracted job creators in America’s exploding tech scene. Buffalo was pointing to its amazing food and night life, and starting to understand the absolute beauty of its park and [remaining] parkway system to attract visitors, but we were slow to rethink our job markets, with little more than tax incentives to offer to companies that went sniffing around cities like ours looking for the best deals.
An idea came about to get Buffalonians, and those from outside of our region, to believe that creating a burgeoning entrepreneurial market in this region was possible. We’re affordable, beautiful, full of rich heritage and not a brand new city out west or in the southeast. The sun sets over the water on our beaches, and we have a highly educated population who wants to stay here if the jobs are here for them. We can scream that from the rooftops until the cows come home,
But why not flip the tables and make a business pitch to US?
We’ll invest in you, and you’ll stay here for a year. Who knows, you may just fall in love with the place. We’re betting you will. And through the years, some have. Some haven’t. But the $5million on the table has garnered the attention of companies across the US and around the world. They’re thinking about Buffalo and investigating living here before they apply. They take a more serious look at our town than most businesses ever would, and every year hundreds of them decide, “Yeah I’ll give Buffalo a shot. Hope they like us.”
After spending nearly seven years identifying winning startups and gaining a percentage in their company, 43North is now sustainable with 51 portfolio companies and $5.9BILLION in portfolio valuation. That success bolsters the organization’s reputation, and that of our city.
We’re on our way. We have so much more work to do from improving our infrastructure, not just roads and bridges but high-speed internet, accessible to everyone, and better-connecting our business ecosystem to itself and to our area colleges and universities. There again, 43North is at work. Alongside luring those businesses to town, they’re focusing on their own back yard, with job fairs going on all year long, and programming for the region’s high school students to get them excited about what’s happening in our town before they go off to college and think about where they want to launch their careers.
So while the tech and startup scene may not be your jam, a new, innovative, economically diverse and resilient Buffalo should be, because that affects all of us. 43North is one spoke in the wheel, but we need them all to succeed.
Join us at the finals. It’s exciting! It gives you a fresh feeling about our town. Who knows, you may end up working at one of these companies one day – just ask the thousands of people now employed here by those winning companies today.
And if you’re STILL not yet feeling the electricity, take a minute to watch a video I still watch monthly to get my heart pounding, way back from 2014!