The Buffalo Niagara Partnership – the region’s business and political leadership – has devised a smart strategy with its wish list for 2014, adding the group’s voice to the efforts of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion investment plan.
As The News’ David Robinson recently reported, it puts a heavy focus on transportation projects, brownfield cleanup efforts and initiatives to encourage local entrepreneurs to start businesses here.
Several of the Partnership’s high-priority items are initiatives pushed by the state, including the creation of a Regional Workforce Advancement Center and an Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Competitiveness, which would fill a growing need for employees with a specific skill set.
The Partnership agenda also backs the Buffalo Billion initiative for a $5 million business plan competition with the goal of helping the region attract entrepreneurs by providing early funding for the most promising startups, all identified through the contest.
The high priority on supporting an extension of a program to support private-sector cleanup projects at brownfields through tax credits could score the region another RiverBend, a potential bonanza following the governor’s announcement of a $225 million investment to build the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub in South Buffalo.
The 185-acre parcel along the Buffalo River on South Park Avenue, formerly known as Steelfields, was privately remediated before being purchased by the city.
Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president of the Partnership, said such cleanup “will continue to be one of the biggest drivers in our region … where smart growth is very important.”
The agenda’s continuing efforts to speed up the completion of plaza improvements at the Peace Bridge and the U.S. plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge recognize the critical role played by our location on the border. The bridge efforts have dragged on far beyond what was necessary, and any push the Partnership can add to the projects is welcome.
Improvements to the cargo pre-inspection program at the Peace Bridge are just as important. The Partnership agenda seeks “adequate staffing to make the program permanent” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There are other agenda items, but probably none ranks higher than rallying support for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in advance of an expected new round of base closure recommendations in 2015 or 2017. At risk could be the 914th and 107th Airlift Wings now stationed at the base. Both are not only good for the local economy but are important to national security. Any new threat to the continuation of the important mission each fulfills should be strenuously resisted.
Gallagher-Cohen said aligning the goals of the Partnership with state economic development efforts “is really the beginning. We lay out this agenda and say, ‘This is what we’re all working for.’ ”
The Partnership’s regional agenda, developed with Erie and Niagara counties and the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, is important because it helps focus political and business interests on a reasonable number of very important projects rather than diluting the effort over too broad a tapestry.