I had my first in-depth interview Wednesday with Brian Reilly, the city's new commissioner of economic development. Seems like a sharp fellow. Definitely energetic.
What's to like:
He's cut his teeth elsewhere - Milwaukee and Cleveland.
He's got experience in green economic development.
And he's full of ideas.
What he said of particular interest:
He's added a focus on attracting companies to the city and helping those already here expand. Should help to make the city more business friendly.
He's talking to the other economic development players on a regular basis, folks like the IDAs and state Empire Development Corp.
He wants to cluster neighborhood investments, which would be a real departure from the scatter-shot approach that goes back at least as far as Jimmy Griffin.
He's trying to market brownfields in South Buffalo, including the old Republic Steel site, as a renewable energy and technology corridor. Also working with Lackawanna to include the Bethlehem Steel site. Selling points: lots of land and lake and highway access. And, I found out, home to a huge 42-inch water main capable of pumping as much water in a day as the rest of the city consumes. (Companies in the water-parched south and southwest, are you listening?)
All this said, it's one thing to be smart and full of ideas, another to be effective.
Does he have what it takes to succeed in the political waters of City Hall, to change its long-standing approach to economic development, which I'll oversimplify as "indiscriminate subsidies, often used as pork barrel."
I've spoken with some other folks who have had dealings with Reilly, and some of them, while they find him bright, said he sometimes comes off as overly defensive. That's a common criticism of the administration he works for. Here's hoping he's better at dealing with the rabble than some of his superiors.