Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has proposed an economic development initiative that might be very useful in helping to improve the county’s economy – or not. Some of the proposals, while certainly worth pursuing, are largely unmeasurable, meaning their impact will be difficult to determine.
Nevertheless, they amount to an appropriate, if preliminary, expenditure of county effort.
Poloncarz details his plan – “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” – in a report of more than 80 pages. It focuses on 12 key areas officials think the county can influence: 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.
Within those categories, the document identifies 64 specific initiatives to pursue, including construction of a new building at Erie Community College, establishing an Economic Development Office in the Greater Toronto Area, analyzing the need for a new convention center, redeveloping the former Bethlehem Steel site and establishing a shovel-ready agribusiness park in Erie County.
Other aspects of the initiative deal with creating innovative agriculture programs, capitalizing on the region’s tourism potential and improving quality of life.
Who could argue with any of these ideas? It’s a little like coming out foursquare in favor of Father’s Day. The question is: How do these ambitions translate into actions and the actions into results?
These are all worthy goals, and anyone who cares about redeveloping the regional economy should be pleased with the focus this report creates. The question, as always, is in the followup. What are the day-by-day actions that need to be taken to produce the long-term results that Poloncarz seeks? Who will be in charge of seeing that they are accomplished? Important goals require specific plans.
This undertaking is worth the effort, especially now. Buffalo appears to be on the cusp of something new and exciting, with large and influential construction projects under way near the waterfront and around the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. This is a moment to focus, to think about what the region has going for it and to make the most of those resources.
We hope Poloncarz will pursue this agenda and report back to the public. When it comes to producing results, there’s nothing like asking someone to hold you accountable. The county’s residents are up to the job.