on March 13, 2013 - 5:41 PM
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz will make his push for reforming the Erie County Industrial Development Agency a top priority in his second year in office as he unveils his economic development strategy.
Poloncarz, in his first “state of the county” address Wednesday, called “reforming a dysfunctional IDA system” a chief goal of a strategy that also will include strengthening workforce development efforts and leveraging the region’s “strategic location” on the Canadian border.
He plans to introduce details of his economic development agenda later this spring but said it will build on work he started during his first year.
“We must focus our scarce public resources on economic development efforts that produce real, lasting jobs for our citizens and increased wealth for our region,” Poloncarz told county and community leaders gathered at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Poloncarz said his goal is to stop giving companies taxpayer subsidies “that do not produce new economic activity” for the community and that are prohibited by the policies of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and similar agencies in area towns.
He stopped short of suggesting those industrial development agencies become one.
“Consolidation, I think everyone would agree, would probably be the smartest thing in the long run, but it’s almost impossible to happen politically,” Poloncarz told reporters after his speech. “So we’re going to work on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, where we can make substantive change.”
That change will include requiring businesses that apply for tax breaks to “prove the economic benefit to the greater community,” he said.
Poloncarz said his economic development strategy also would focus on creating a “blue economy” to leverage the region’s geographic location and natural water resources, committing to “smart growth and sustainability” through land-use planning, ensuring brownfield redevelopment and farmland protection, and making “conscientious investments” in infrastructure, the workforce and quality of life.
Poloncarz also touched on his plan to renovate and reopen a closed county clinic on Broadway in Buffalo this year. The new clinic will focus on primary, dental and mental health care.
County lawmakers have authorized the county to borrow $2.6 million for the project.
The county executive laid out his vision for the county and pointed to his first-year successes during an address in which he also highlighted a county caseworker, Shadia Rodriguez, for her work in identifying “serious and life-threatening” injuries to a 17-month-old child who had been referred to the county’s Child Protective Services last summer.
He credited Rodriguez with saving the child’s life.
“While some believe county government is part of the problem and treat the county workforce as an enemy, I believe our dedicated and hardworking civil servants are actually assets,” Poloncarz said.