The two full-time employees promised for the region after the Canadian government closed its consulate in downtown Buffalo in August have started working in an office on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The employees – Linda Soltis, a trade commissioner, and Rachael Homewood, a foreign policy and diplomacy service officer – started work earlier this month in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center. They report to the Consulate General in New York City, according to Chris Plunkett, a spokesman for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Canadians agreed to hire the workers after elected officials and members of the Western New York business community protested Ottawa’s decision to close the Buffalo consulate, which employed 75 people and took up two floors of One HSBC Center.
“The closure of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo was a real threat to commerce and security between Canada and the U.S. And, while a full reversal of this decision would have been smartest and most productive, a continued presence in Buffalo is an important victory for Western New York businesses and residents alike,” said U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement. He had joined in lobbying the Canadian government to maintain a presence in Buffalo.
The new employees started work eight months after Canadian officials announced they planned to close the Buffalo consulate because of budget cuts and a shift in immigration policy. The policy now allows foreign nationals living in Southern Ontario to make changes to their visas online instead of at the facility in Buffalo.
The Canadians moved ahead with the consulate’s closure, over the objections of local political and business leaders, but agreed in August to hire two employees to provide some of the services once offered by the Buffalo consulate.
The Canadian government posted the two job openings on Oct. 10. Both positions have starting salaries of $84,569 per year. Soltis previously worked at the consulate in Buffalo.
“Their main responsibilities are working with regional authorities and communities in strengthening border cooperation and business development,” Plunkett, the embassy spokesman, said in an email.