Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz wants the county to take a lead role in boosting the local economy, its workforce and infrastructure.
The strategy, which builds on plans the county executive alluded to in his 2013 State of the County address, focuses on a variety of local projects in which the county is either the lead or co-leading agency.
“The roles that we play in economic development are fairly large. I don’t believe there is another government, other than New York State, that has as much of an impact on this region as Erie County does,” Poloncarz said Wednesday, during a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board.
Poloncarz is scheduled to unveil his “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” during an address at 2 p.m. today in the boardroom of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, 665 Main St., in Buffalo.
“I wanted to figure out what can we do to have an impact in this community beyond just providing the services that our residents expect ... Dream big, but be realistic,” he said.
Poloncarz and his team identified what they deemed to be 12 key areas of the local economy upon which they believe county government can have an impact. They are workforce development; smart growth; entrepreneurship; agriculture tourism, energy, binational logistics; international trade; reform and enhancement of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency; land development and redevelopment; quality of life and “blue,” or water-based, economy.
Under the broad umbrella of those 12 areas, the team identified 64 specific and attainable initiatives for the county to pursue. The administration also identified partnerships that the county will have to engage in for each initiative and established timelines for when they can reasonably be implemented.
“Most of these can be done in a fairly short period of time – two to three years – and do not require a lot of capital,” Poloncarz said.
Some have already started or are being readied. Under the umbrella of workforce development, a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math building is planned for the Erie Community College North Campus in Amherst.
“All of the initiatives here go hand-in-hand with what the economic development entities are doing, but they take it an extra step using the resources that the county government has at our disposal, which will move things forward in a faster manner,” Poloncarz said.
There are also initiatives to boost local tourism.
“We’re going to invest up to $500,000 in a feasibility study to look at whether we need a new downtown convention center ... We know that if we can triple the size of the convention center’s floor space ... it inevitably will triple the economic impact of everyone in Buffalo, because you get that many more people usually staying that one more room-night, which is a tremendous impact,” Poloncarz said.