Woe to the economy of any community that does not keep its employers. Job growth may be the gold ring of economic development, but wise community leaders understand that they also must keep the businesses they've already got. That would be an easy task if all companies were Delaware North.
The global food service and hospitality company is headquartered in Fountain Plaza, in downtown Buffalo. It is considering moving over the next few years, but no farther away than ... downtown Buffalo.
The family-owned company was founded 97 years ago, and its leaders like its hometown. "We're really wedded to the downtown Buffalo area," the company's chief financial officer, Christopher J. Feeney, told The Buffalo News. "We've been a citizen of the community here. We like it, and have every intention of staying."
That's music to the ears of anyone who wants to see Buffalo and Western New York prosper. With 350 corporate employees in Buffalo and operations around the world, Delaware North is a major player here. If it wanted to leave, alarms would be blaring in government and economic development offices around the region.
The question for Delaware North is whether new space would better serve its purposes over the coming years. Its lease at Fountain Plaza expires in the summer of 2015, and it is beginning now to explore its options, which are to renew its lease, to move to an existing site or to build something new. The goal, Feeney said, "is to get the best possible headquarters spot for Delaware North for an extended period of time" - 15 to 20 years.
This is a powerhouse company. It has annual revenues of more than $2.6 billion and 55,000 employees and it owns both the Boston Bruins hockey team and the TD Garden arena, where the team plays. It says something to the rest of the business world - or, at least, it should - that a company of Delaware North's reach and stature likes being in Buffalo.
In a similar vein, it is gratifying to see that Mark Hamister, chairman and CEO of the Hamister Group, is moving his headquarters from Amherst to downtown Buffalo. The move will be part of the company's $40 million revitalization of the Tishman Building on Lafayette Square.
Not all companies have that devotion to Buffalo. Some leave for the suburbs. Some leave the state and, in fairness, New York has not made it easy for companies to want to do business here. With high taxes, high energy costs and high labor costs - to name just a few of the state-crafted disincentives - it is remarkable that Delaware North retains its enthusiasm for Buffalo and New York State, in general.
There will be stresses as the company begins to consider its options. The office market in Buffalo is in flux and is likely to continue that way, as HSBC - which still retains 3,000 employees in Buffalo and with a lease that expires next year - ponders its own future.
But it is a relief to know that Delaware North still considers Buffalo its home and wants to stay. It should know that its presence is welcome.