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LITTLE VALLEY – Cattaraugus County has heard the announcements of departure from no fewer than three major employers in the last 18 months.

It seems the profile of the county is shifting away from industry and moving toward one of what might be called a livability economy – or at least that could be the direction, as legislators heard last week.

“Part of the problem we have in this country is that we have been designing for cars. Stop designing for cars and design for life,” said Dan Burden, a 16-year veteran of community development and reinvigoration.

Some areas Burden has helped to transform have seen dramatic increases in profitability. Some areas have gone from the concrete jungle design to lush, green places of vibrant activity. The transformations have occurred not just on the commercial level, but in areas that are becoming more and more important, according to Burden: walkability and family friendliness.

“I have found that 80 percent of Americans want to live in walkable places,” said Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. “Doing that will give regions like this the opportunity to create great jobs.”

Burden has been instrumental in the development of the North Union Street project in Olean and also did some work in Hamburg. He is known for taking multiple-lane highways that run through areas at 35 to 40 mph and creating two-lane areas with green spaces and roundabouts and decreasing speeds to 10 to 20 mph.

The change helps to create what Burden calls “place.” His message recalls the “build it and they will come” philosophy. In creating areas like he has done in Hamburg, an area he holds up as a solid success, Burden said the combination of the right investments in the right things will stimulate the marketplace.

His message to Cattaraugus County officials was a message of what could be, should the county look to him and his firm to create a sense of “place” in the county.

The Legislature took no action on the Burden contract.