F.O.C.U.S. Forum Speaker Biography

Richard Tobe 1Richard Tobe currently serves as Director of Upstate Revitalization in the administration of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Mr. Tobe assumed this position in January 2015 at the commencement of Governor Cuomo’s second term. In this position he successfully directed the Governor’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative that awarded $1.5 billion for economic development purposes.

 

For much of his career Mr. Tobe has focused on economic development matters in Buffalo, Erie County, and New York State. He has been involved in and often led the development of private sector deals and public sector projects. The public sector projects often have involved multiple parties including local governments, the state and private parties who will be tenants within a project such as the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres. Other projects have included public sector inducements to support the expansion or relocation of private employers within Erie County. Many of the projects and deals have been highly complex, subject to public debate and a high level of media attention.

Mr. Tobe has had extensive experience serving in high level positions in New York State, City of Buffalo and Erie County governments. Most recently he served for three years ending in January 2015 as Deputy Erie County (New York) Executive in the administration of County Executive Mark Poloncarz. In addition to his public service, Mr. Tobe served for five years as the Vice President of Program at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and for three years he operated a private consulting business. He has also served as Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Planning School and in the Law School both at the University of Buffalo. He served for two and a half years as a volunteer board member on the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority (Buffalo Control Board), for five years as board member on the Richardson Olmsted Corporation and for two years as a board member of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

Mr. Tobe has been involved in governmental matters since his days as an undergraduate student at the University of Buffalo when in 1970 he successfully researched and negotiated a nationwide first of its kind local law to require lead free gasoline to be sold at all gas stations in the City of Buffalo. Over the intervening 45 years, his career has been highlighted by creative, successful solutions to complex public policy matters. Many of these matters have involved multi-government and often multi-private party deals that have blended state and local concerns with private sector profit motives.

He has had experience in working with the State and local governments on deals involving the Buffalo Bills including the current 10 year lease extension and the prior 15 year lease, the new sports and entertainment venue for the Buffalo Sabres Professional Hockey team (now called First Niagara Center), the construction of the minor league baseball stadium in downtown Buffalo, the construction of the Erie Community College Flickinger Athletic Center for use as part of the World University Games, construction of a parking ramp in downtown Buffalo, and the removal of over 450,000 cubic yards of radioactive waste from the Town of Tonawanda in collaboration with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He negotiated and authored approximately 150 bills that have been signed into law in New York State. He was also invited to testify before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C. regarding a proposed clean-up order for the remediation of nuclear materials at West Valley, New York.

Mr. Tobe served for approximately two years as the chair of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency’s Policy Committee. In that position he advanced County Executive Poloncarz’s economic development agenda. He also led the IDA in the successful implementation of IDA reforms promulgated by the New York State Legislature at the request of Governor Cuomo in 2013.

Mr. Tobe received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1971 and a J.D. degree from the School of Law in 1974 both from the University of Buffalo.

Mr. Tobe has participated in five Arctic Canoe trips including a trip that involved the making of an award winning documentary, “On to the Polar Sea: A Yukon Adventure”.

Among Mr. Tobe’s awards was his selection as Distinguished Alumni for Public Service from the University of Buffalo School of Law and his receipt of the Commander’s Award for Public Service from the United States Department of the Army.

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