What ever happened to Tor-Buff-Chester?

Jon P Spitz

“Tor-Buff-Chester is bigger than the San Francisco-Silicon Valley mega-region, Greater Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and more than twice the size of Cascadia, which stretches from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland. Its economic might is equivalent to more than half of all of Canada’s. If it were its own country, it would number among the 16 biggest in the world, with economic output bigger than that of Sweden, the Netherlands, or Australia.” -http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/wake-up-toronto---youre-bigger-than-you-think/article1085515/?page=all

That article was published in 2007. 10 years later and Toronto is a economic powerhouse and one of my favorite cities to visit (less than a two hour drive from Buffalo). Alas, Tor-Buff-Chester never took off and i’m not quite sure why. How can Buffalo benefit from it’s proximity to Canada and vice versa? It’s a question I ask myself every time I head North.

Last week I had the opportunity to tour Communitech in Waterloo, Ontario. To say I walked away impressed is an understatement. I’ve had the chance to visit dozens of incubators across Canada and the US and what is happening in Waterloo is unique and beyond inspiring. It’s the perfect blend of public and private money, corporate partners and the University working together. This didn’t happen overnight. It took 20 years for them to get to where they are today.

In Buffalo we are on year 5 of our 2o year build. We have come a long way from the red folding tables in The Buffalo News building at Z80 Labs. I still ask how can we tap into our neighbors up North and bring back the thought of Tor-Buff-Chester? In Buffalo we have a burgeoning medical campus that is home to over 150 businesses and counting and soon the University at Buffalo’s Medical School will call it home as well. Startup NY offers companies the opportunity to operate tax-free for 10 years. Initiatives such as 43North have helped Canadian companies Infonaut (class of 2014) and CleanSlate (class of 2015) with funding, work space and mentorship. Ask either of those companies about their experience in Buffalo and you will surely get a positive response.

Aerial shot of Buffalo and the BNMC (Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus)

Buffalo is simply the easiest point of access for Southern Ontario companies to enter the US market. With affordable real estate and a quick commute these companies have the ability to split time between two markets (and countries) relatively easy. So how do we get greater collaboration? What is the ideal company that should look towards Buffalo? Selfishly I’d like to say all companies but realistically I believe med-tech companies can see the benefits of crossing the boarder the quickest. I know Canadians are worried about brain drain and losing talent to the valley and NYC. Buffalo seems like the safest bet to help these entrepreneurs gain traction in US market while maintaining their Canadian presence.

Jon P Spitz

Written by

Managing Director of @z80Labs and co-founder of @blockchainBLO in Buffalo, NY.

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