Another Voice: Buffalo has its visionaries, but we don't follow them

2013-07-15 14:33:27
A recent article in The Buffalo News that praised the work of Alain Kaloyeros, head of the State University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, was well-deserved. The troubling part of the story was the notion that Buffalo lacks visionaries like Kaloyeros who can get the job done.

Kaloyeros said turning around the system takes visionary leadership, which has been lacking. What we need are two chancellors to the SUNY system: one who would run the day-to-day operations and the other whose sole purpose would be to think outside the box. That person would need the total cooperation of the governor and the State Legislature because most changes need legislative concurrence.

Kaloyeros said that if SUNY campuses are to morph into economic powerhouses, they’ll have to change their ways. The problem in Buffalo is not that we lack visionaries, but that we lack visionaries who are in charge.

Most of those now in charge are the ones who put us in the situation that we are in now. The old guard has to realize that its time has come and gone and we need new leadership. One doesn’t have to look far, but to the boards of most public institutions of higher education. Do we see any leading venture capital, doctorate or computer experts sitting on those boards? What we have are the same-old same-old visionless individuals who were chosen because they support the status quo.

Kaloyeros said: “The way the other campuses chose to spend their investments didn’t produce the results that we went about investing at Albany.”

Erie County and New York State are about to spend $30 million on a building whose primary function is to train young people in health sciences, and where does the leadership at Erie Community College want to locate it? At its North Campus on Wehrle Drive and Youngs Road in Amherst.

Kaloyeros talks about a different culture in Albany where professors are judged on how many hours they spend in community college and high school classrooms, teaching and looking for future science students. It doesn’t take a genius to know that if we want to follow in Kaloyeros’ success, the new ECC building should be on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where world-class doctors and scientists could guest lecture Buffalo’s best and brightest.

We have many visionaries in Buffalo, such as Jordan Levy, Norma Nowak, Dr. Nick Hopkins and Dr. Donald Trump. The problem is that, unlike Albany, our region hasn’t embraced their visionary ideas. If Buffalo doesn’t tear down the wall of resistance to change, then the New York billion will go nowhere but down the drain. Next time we have a major project to undertake, we should ask ourselves: Would Alain Kaloyeros do it this way? We have visionaries with ideas. Now let’s use them.

Rocco Termini is president of Signature Development in Buffalo.