4.5 billion is a big number.
Especially when it is used to describe the amount of money being spent on economic development projects in the city.
Mayor Byron Brown has been tossing that figure around, along with words like "astounding" and "unprecedented" to describe the amount of development activity in Buffalo since he took office.
Now, I live in North Buffalo, work in downtown, and get around the city a fair bit. And I wasn't seeing $4.5 billion of activity. So I got a list from the mayor's office detailing all the projects that add up to $4.5 billion, I got building permit data and I asked a lot of questions. And what I found is that the mayor's math doesn't add up. Not even close.
Two-thirds of the work involves proposed projects that have no guarantees of getting built; some of them are actually shaky propositions. Taxpayers are paying for most of the construction. Much of what the mayor couches at economic development is stuff like roads, bridges, school and bike paths.
And, perhaps most surprising of all, when you zero in on just private sector work, activity is actually down compared with the last six years of the Masiello era. Repeat, down.
When I hear "business" and "investment," I think of companies sinking money into projects. But that's the exception to the rule when it comes to Brown's claim.
For the full story, read Sunday's Buffalo News.