Buffalo Business First-Partnership at bat for regional projects

Posted on November 23rd, 2010

Business First – By James Fink

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s regional agenda has laid out a mix of familiar and new themes, all with the intent of seeing several initiatives move forward in the next year.
The agenda, released Monday, lists a wide range of projects that its authors feel are essential to the region advancing out of its economic doldrums.

“This sets our advocacy road map for the year,” said Jon Dandes, Buffalo Niagara Partnership chairman. “This is not the end, but the beginning.”

The agenda marks the 10th year in a row that the Partnership has detailed specific projects that needed immediate attention from lawmakers and funding sources in both Albany and Washington. Monday’s presentation, made at Pettibone’s Grille inside of Coca-Cola Field, was attended by more than 150 people, including Rep. Chris Lee, R-Clarence, and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore.

During the past decade, the Partnership’s agenda — crafted by leaders in both Erie and Niagara counties — has helped with the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, saving the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base and pushed back the start date of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

“The economic conditions from ten years ago aren’t so different than they are today,” said Andrew Rudnick, Buffalo Niagara Partnership president and chief executive officer. “Our agenda has remained a constant when it comes to economic development enablers. We want things that will help stimulate jobs and will act for the benefit of the community.”

Topping this year’s list is getting the transformative UB 2020 legislation approved in Albany. The state lawmakers need to grant UB the ability to set its own tuition rates — a move that will allow the university to provide seed money for its expansion plans in Amherst and downtown Buffalo.

The state Senate approved the measure this year but it stalled in the Assembly.“We were this close,” Rudnick said. “UB 2020 in 2011 needs to become a reality and not just a dream.”
Other items include:
• Allowing the oft-discussed Peace Bridge expansion project to move forward, ending years of prolonged discussions and reviews. An expanded Peace Bridge would open the door for more economic development growth in the region.

“This project actually has a chance to move forward in the way we have all hoped since 1993,” Rudnick said.

• Securing $40 million in state and federal funding for the Niagara Experience Center in Niagara Falls.
• Landing $2 million in state funds to help pay for the Buffalo Zoo’s plans to build a new entrance way.
• Local officials hope to land $500,000 in federal funds to help finance the construction of a boutique hotel near the Erie Canal gateway area of North Tonawanda.
• A push is being made to secure $6 million in federal dollars to help restore the “Flight of Five” Erie Canal locks in Lockport to their 1842 condition.

“The agenda represents all of us being strategic in what we are asking for and advocating for,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.