Buffalo’s Credit Grade Lifted Two Years After State Control Ends

Buffalo, New York’s poorest city, was upgraded one step to A+ by Standard & Poor’s, two years after a state body released control of its finances.

The new rating, the fifth-highest level of investment grade, signals a rebound as Governor Andrew Cuomo follows through on a promise to invest $1 billion in the state’s second-largest city.

Buffalo was managed by a state control board for nine years until 2012, when the panel shifted to an advisory role. The population of Buffalo, on Lake Erie in the western part of the state, has fallen 25 percent since 1990 to about 260,000, S&P said in a report yesterday.

“The city has recently embarked on a structural shift to the medical and education sectors,” Lindsay Wilhelm, an S&P analyst, wrote in the report. The move “could add to the city’s employment, tax base and income levels in the long term.”

Buffalo is set to play a key role in this year’s gubernatorial contest. Cuomo, a 56-year-old Democrat, has made turning around the city’s economy central to his economic plans, and the state’s investment has drawn companies such as International Business Machines Corp. In 2010, he lost the eight-county area surrounding Buffalo, the base of his Republican opponent, Carl Paladino.

Rob Astorino, Westchester County’s top elected official, visited Buffalo yesterday, the second day of his Republican gubernatorial campaign. He says Cuomo hasn’t done enough to cut taxes and boost the economy.

Cuomo said in a statement e-mailed yesterday that the upgrade is “proof positive” that his development strategy is working.

“New York state is helping breathe new life into Buffalo and showing businesses that we are serious about revitalizing, rebuilding and remaking the Western New York economy,” he said. The “upgrade is an important milestone, but the comeback of Buffalo has only just begun.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.