Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The abundance of inexpensive power generated from the hydro-electric facility in Lewiston is extremely attractive to organizations, such as Yahoo!, who rely on huge amounts of electricity to maintain its operations. In addition, the availability of great quantities of fresh water remains critically important to not only the manufacturing sector, but to the technology sector as well.
Yahoo! also noted the fact that the Buffalo Niagara climate also factored into their decision to locate here. Due to the massive amounts of heat which radiates from the Yahoo! servers, Yahoo! sought a naturally cooler climate to moderate their utility expenses. We are certainly able to comply with that request!
Equally important, Yahoo! noted that the positions that will be created for this data center will "include a variety of engineering and other technical positions". Yahoo! recognizes the fact that the Western New York region offers current and prospective employers an experienced, educated and skilled work force.
As Yahoo! has found, and many Buffalo Niagara employers already know, our region offers many reasons to do business in Western New York.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Partnership’s Life Science Industries Council partnered with Southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network on June 23rd to explore the future of doing cross border life sciences work. Overwhelmingly the message was clear – cross border business makes sense, but take your time to plan accordingly. Expert panelists presented tips, tricks, and advice for establishing and running business across the border. Attendees heard from the FDA about upcoming regulatory changes, from customs from both sides of the border, and from businesses presenting best practices of successful cross border operations.
One of the best results of the event was the opportunity to build relationships and open up future business opportunities for the life sciences industry. The event featured an online business matchmaking service called e-Partnerup, which is designed to facilitate dealmaking in an online environment even after the close of the conference. Stay tuned for more…
The Life Science Industries Council along with the Golden Horseshoe Biosciences Network will continue to facilitate the cross border conversation in the hope of growing this essential piece of our region.
Friday, June 26, 2009
There is word that a leadership deal is being successfully brokered, but that remains to be seen. What's interesting to us is that there is a tremendous amount of ire around the state related to the Senate, with people calling for senators' salaries to be withheld for their inaction, heavyweights like Rudy Guiliani weighing in on the mess, and both parties now angry at the Governor. But, in spite of all the "let's act like adults" rhetoric, this is politics. Like it or love it, what's happening in New York State right now is no different than any political posturing that has taken place since the dawn of man. It's why rules of order were created - only U.S. Army Major Henry Martyn Robert, when he put together his "Rules of Order" in 1876, probably didn't imagine that a state body of government would reapportion to an even number of district representatives without a back-up measure for a tie-breaking vote. It may seem extraordinary because we're in the midst of it, but from a historical political perspective in regards to power struggles - it's nothing new.
What the Senate has lacked so far, however, is the creativity to get out of the jam - but people locking in their positions and refusing to budge on principle is pretty normal. Expecting something different from a body that isn't used to being creative (i.e. the 09/10 state budget) is foolish on our parts.
Truthfully, this would be a lot more interesting if we weren't New York State taxpayers waiting for something to break. Political pundits and sociologists from across the nation should be camped outside the Legislative Office Building like a Bills' tailgate. How do you break a political and personal impasse when no one can even define what the impasse is?
Of course, we like to look at everything from a policy perspective, and there's a good example in play right now of how these politics are affecting policy. At the end of May, the Senate passed legislation that provides for a Historic Preservation Tax Credit - to encourage redevelopment in urban neighborhoods across the state. For us, that's very much in line with the Framework for Regional Growth, so we are supportive of the legislation - and pleased with the action. Earlier this week, the Assembly passed a similar bill - watered down a little bit - and then went home. Which means that for this important piece of economic development legislation to become reality, the lesser version - which leaves out a few components that are important, but hopefully can be addressed at a later date - must now be passed by the State Senate. Normally, our advocacy efforts right now - aligned with partners across the state - would be toward finding a compromise between the two bills, which isn't an option now. We'll take the watered down version as a stepping stone, but it's not the ideal scenario. I thought that was an interesting look at how the stalemate - which we all are frustrated with from a very general perspective - is affecting specific work.
The deals on the table sound interesting, and there's no telling how they'll play in future special sessions throughout the rest of this year (remember the budget, already a couple billion out of whack, will need to be readdressed) and into next year.
Get some popcorn! Have a great weekend!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Some states get it... Some don't. Expect to hear some announcements from Maine about their economic growth in the coming months.
As I said - every level of government seems to want to dictate to communities and private sector developers how they're going to operate. Yet another example is legislation in Washington that passed the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee last week - S.787, the "Clean Water Restoration Act" (CWRA) - check out our letter of opposition. Basically, the CWRA, a restitution of regulations that preceded a court ruling regarding the Clean Water Act of 2007, would give the federal government over everything that could be described as a body of water - including standing water puddles that form on a development site (that's not a hyperbole). It would require a permit for any project that could impact a "body of water" with that expanded definition - even if (1) the development is taking place on private property or (2) the development has absolutely no effect on the water in question.
It's one word that's being taken out of the current policy that makes all the difference - "navigable." By removing that word, a whole new brand of federal regulation becomes reality - with plenty of opportunity for subjective political influence over both commercial and real estate development projects.
In addition, the legislation will also dramatically effect farms and ranches, as "bodies of water" on those types of properties will fall under CWRA. Agribusiness lobby groups have come out strongly opposed to this legislation, and here in the Buffalo Niagara region, given the importance of agribusiness to our regional economy, we certainly cannot afford any more burden on employers - even if this one would affect the entire nation.
The CWRA is another well-intended bill that goes way too far - everyone wants to protect our waters and keep them clean. But overregulation is the antithesis of job creation, and such a broad definition of what a "body of water" is will only hurt economic development and agribusiness opportunities nationwide. That's the last thing this country - and our region - needs right now.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Each side - the Democrats and the "coalition" of Republicans+1 - passed a number of pieces of legislation. Each side recognized a quorum of senators that included members who weren't actually participating in either of the sessions being simultaneously held. The coalition called roll with Democrats milling about and in the process of leaving the chamber, so they believe that their session was valid; the Democrats reasoned that 62 senators were present for the Pledge of Allegiance, so their session was valid. At the end, nobody's quite sure if anything actually legally passed.
While the agenda for yesterday's session was Governor Paterson's list of "non-controversial" issues, we had one horse in the race - tax increment financing (TIF) legislation related to brownfields clean-up (a project of the Unshackle Upstate Brownfields Working Group). TIF legislation passed, but then again, we don't know if the vote was legal, both because of the confusion and because it wasn't listed on the Governor's agenda, and only items on the Governor's agenda can be taken up in a special session that he calls. I don't know - can we claim a moral victory? (TIF still need Assembly support, anyway, and they've gone home for now).
What's fascinating to us is that - particularly given the beating that senators are taking for "not doing their jobs" - not one of them has held a press conference to say, "I'm going to show up for the other side's session today... Not because I'm joining them as a caucus... Not because I'm supporting their leadership... But because there are bills that we need to vote on, and this stalemate is hurting New York State taxpayers." Especially - if you want to think about it politically - one who represents a marginal district that requires votes from both Republicans and Democrats to win. Sure, you might end up aggravating your party, but your constituents will praise you (and re-elect you) for being "the one" that ended all this BS. And as long as you vote up or down with your conscience and on behalf of your constituents, what does it matter who's standing up front with the gavel in his or her hand - particularly with "non-controversial" agenda before the Senate? Seems simplistic, but that's what leadership and representation is.
This would all be a lot easier to swallow if there appeared to be some advantage for Upstate coming out of it. "Which downstate senator can hold the gavel?" is not inspirational enough for us in Western New York to warrant this political posturing.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I think it’s often easier to complain about what’s going wrong than it is to celebrate what’s going right. I know I’ve caught myself doing the former more often than I’d care to admit. I also think Buffalo takes its fair share of criticism, whether it’s for sports, weather, or economy. Recently, however, I had a chance to spend time with a group of Buffalo Niagara 360 professionals touring Buffalo’s storied waterfront on an early Saturday morning.
My motivation for joining the tour was simply to break down some of the stereotypes I’ve formed in my own mind about Buffalo over the years. I’ve lived and worked in Buffalo my whole life mainly because I have very strong family ties to the area. And while I’ve traveled to many great places, Buffalo has always been the community I call home. So every time I hear that Buffalo is nothing more than an arctic rust pot famous for losing championship games and a waterfront that hasn’t changed in decades, it quickly sets my gears in motion. I find myself saying “we’re not the only city that gets snow,” “we have more sunny days than Orlando,” “we support our teams through thick and thin, win or lose.” Eventually, you wonder if you’re the only one who cares, given that things have been slow to change.
You could call me cautiously optimistic when I first heard plans for waterfront development. But on this cool spring morning I found myself wandering around in awe through the Commercial Slip, the Naval Park, the boardwalk, all of which will soon become part of the larger Canalside project. Suddenly, I could visualize the potential the area has. I started to feel like a part of something more than what I’m supposed to feel as a Buffalo resident. I felt pride and excitement. I felt like someone was listening to all those complaints, even if they were silent protests of things gone wrong in Buffalo’s past. It was like someone was reading the collective minds of this community and actually doing something about it. Our hosts, Dave Stebbins and Peter Cammarata of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, were great guides, with a clear commitment to Buffalo and a focus on economic prosperity.
I’ve often wondered if there’s a sense of insecurity about who we are as a city. I hear it when I talk to people everyday. And yet, I think we’re on to something that will break down that mentality, something that we’ll call our own, through our own hard work and dedication, something to be proud of as a whole.
I think it’s also easier to give up when it’s too tough, but I sense a “movement” in this community pushing for excellence. I’m a firm believer that Buffalo is on the precipice of reclaiming some of the glory of the yesteryears, and it’s nice to see things happening for a change. Say what you will you about rusty grain elevators and unused manufacturing plants, but just know that Buffalo is rich in history because of the commitment of generations before us, and will certainly be rich in history because of us. We’re only just beginning.
I guess I believe we all create our own destiny, but it’s nice to see so many people working together for the greater good. Shouldn’t that be what people talk about when they mention Buffalo? All it takes is a little change in mentality, and an opportunity to get reacquainted with Buffalo. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you see. I was, and it’s called progress.
That's not to say that the business community hasn't stepped up. Several years ago, the Partnership started BuffLink for that very purpose - to stimulate commercial outcomes of important life science breakthroughs that happen in our research laboratories. Truthfully, that's the only way that life sciences growth can really be an economic engine for the Buffalo Niagara region. The results echo what was said in the News article regarding the importance of start-ups: since 2001, 1,400 new jobs have been created in the biotech sector, an industry cluster that now employs about 6,500 people here and growing. In addition, UB launched an MBA program in biotechnology and offers training for would-be entrepreneurs in how to start and run a company.
But there's definitely more that can be done. The News article focuses on the state's role in venture capital - we've taken it to a higher level... Washington. The Partnership is part of a coalition of 30 chambers of commerce throughout the Great Lakes region that has crafted the Great Lakes Business Agenda, which focuses on the growth and revitalization of the entire region. A key component of the attention we seek from Washington - in addition to smart border management and investment in transportation infrastructure - is federal investment in innovation throughout the region, for this very reason.
Did you know that the Great Lakes states produce over a third of the nation's patents? That the Great Lakes region accounts for nearly 29% of all research and development in the U.S., totalling over $79 billion annually?(Brookings Institute - A Vital Connection). Where does this vital work go? There's plenty of room for economic development opportunity with the right backing.
Of course, the next step in that process is improving the business climate in Upstate New York, which we talk about here on a daily basis. Private sector investors expect to see a return on their investment, which means smart, strategic financial decision-making is imperative. We need to fix the high-tax, high-regulation atmosphere here in New York State as an important step in keeping venture capital money flowing.
Monday, June 22, 2009
There still has been no solution in regards to control of the New York State Senate, and as a result nothing is getting done right now - good or bad. On our monthly conference call last Friday organized by the Business Council of New York State and including chambers of commerce from all over the state, many thought that inaction isn't necessarily a bad thing. In part, we share that perspective, given some of the things that word had it the Democratic Senate Majority was going to pass.
One of those issues that is of high priority to labor and other special interests in Albany is expansion of Paid Family Leave in New York State. We've dealt with this legislation in each of the past few years, but previously the Republican Senate Majority had stifled it. Before the "coup," there were definitive indications given - including a similar expansion of unemployment benefits that already passed - that expansion of Paid Family Leave was to become a reality by the end of session.
As I mentioned, regardless of what's going on in the Senate - we're pressing on. Here is our letter of opposition to Paid Family Leave legislation, a bill that flies in the face of any elected official who ever touted the importance of small business from a campaign podium. Remember, small businesses were already hammered earlier this year by the "Fair Share" tax included in the 09/10 state budget. Now, this legislation would encourage absenteeism among employees, leaving small business owners to figure out how to fill the gaps.
If you're a small business, you need to weigh in on this issue - particularly if you can offer some insight as to what this legislation would mean to your company. Direct contact with your state legislators (UB Regional Institute Address Analyzer) is best, but if you don't have the time (and believe me, we know that time is not always a luxury for small business owners), the Business Council has set up an e-advocacy effort to help you easily get involved. Don't wait until this legislation passes to raise your voice on it!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Our partners in economic development that are marketing our region across the nation tell us that New York is the laughingstock of the economic development business - and that was from before the situation in the state senate. How can we effectively market doing business in Upstate New York when companies - that would come in and create jobs - are not able to make bottom line projections because the state continues to raise taxes on everything that's not nailed down and, on top of it, has demonstrated it will rip away incentives that are contractually given on a whim? We have an uphill battle.
There are things that can be done to better level the playing field and start to make New York competitive again - and, more importantly, there are things that can be done that won't cost taxpayers a dime! One, is the extension of the civic facilities component of IDA legislation, which would allow IDAs to incentivize projects such as schools, hospitals and senior homes. As we've discussed in this blog often, this legislation has been held up by labor for a year-and-a-half now, stymieing (that's how you spell it - I looked it up!) over $2.5 BILLION in projects statewide. You know how many jobs $2.5 billion in projects would create? Seems like a no-brainer to us.
Not to Albany, though, where a push for job-killing wage mandates has held the legislation up. Last week, we held a press conference with employer organizations and not-for-profits from throughout the state calling for the state legislature to pass a bill sponsored by Senator Stachowski and Assemblyman Morelle S.2898/A.5700 that would reauthorize civic facilities incentives for IDAs separate from the debate over wage mandates. For the Buffalo Niagara region, that would mean that work could begin on these projects:
- Tapestry Charter School - $8.5 million
- D'Youville College - $22 million
- Women & Children's Hospital - $65 million
- St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute - $11 million
- Calamar Senior Housing - $7 million
- Gow School - $5 million
- Nichols High School - $7 million
- Medaille College - $8 million
- UB - $50 million
- Amherst YMCA -$20 million
Many of us in our lifetime will never have any interaction with an industrial development agency, or work on a project that is IDA incentivized. But it's not difficult to understand the jump-start that infusing $203 million worth of projects into our economy would give. This legislation should be a priority of anyone in Albany who ever stood at a podium and said job creation was a priority - particularly the members of the WNY delegation, who represent a community that could use jobs, recession or not.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wonder if the rest of the nation is watching? I found coverage of New York's Senate stalemate in Washington DC, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Yuma, Arizona. (Hey - at least our financially unstable state isn't throwing a lavish NBA championship party in the midst of a budget crisis!)
Have to give the wikipedia.com people credit - they're on top of the State Senate situation. I have to say, it's pretty objective, too. Though at the time I'm writing this, I'm not seeing anything about Judge McNamara's tossing the Dems' lawsuit out of court.
Interesting column by former Governor Eliot Spitzer. I like this quote: "With control of the Senate almost perfectly divided between the parties, any one legislator can tip the balance of power, and hence every legislator has something heretofore denied them—great negotiating capacity. After playing the role of sheep for years, legislators are now recognizing they have the power to be coyotes." We've been saying this for a while - particularly in regards to the "Upstate 5" Dem Senators giving away their votes on the budget that they "had" to make without leveraging for a leadership post or even pork funding for the community senior center.
The New York Daily News reports that the State Senate's inaction is costing NYS taxpayers $1,785,230 a week with nothing to show for it.
Senator Pedro Espada - the Senate's president pro tempore if you believe last week's coup should stand - is suggesting that as such, he would also be acting lieutenant governor, which would earn him a second vote on the floor of the Senate. Interesting interpretation of the rules that even can be defended logically. I don't think anyone will go for it, though.
And here's the best - click here to visit Facebook and "Become a Fan" of the New York State Senate!!! Only if you want.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
From our interpretation, philosophical differences aside, this is what seems should be the actual scenario right now based upon what we know of Roberts Rules of Order: In January, a majority of state senators (32) elected Malcolm Smith to be Majority Leader - they all happened to be Democrat-affiliated. Last Monday, a majority of state senators (32) supported by vote a leadership change. Since then, one of those 32 has gone "back" with the Democrats - not by voting for anything, but by affiliation. That doesn't negate the fact that he voted with the "coalition" for the leadership change a week ago - which means that the "coalition" - particularly with the judge's ruling yesterday (tossing out the Dems' lawsuit) - is in power until someone gets 32 votes to change it up. Majority and minority often has nothing to do with party line - as we've learned here in both Erie and Niagara Counties.
Where the 31-31 comes in, however, is that Senator Hiram Monserrate, in moving back with the Democrats and away from the coalition - while it doesn't change last week's leadership vote - stymies the Senate because if he doesn't show up to Senate chambers, there aren't a majority of votes (32) to start session, much less get anything done. So, in essence, the Dems don't have 32 votes to choose a new leader and hold a session, and the "coalition" has already chosen a leader through parliamentary process, but doesn't have enough votes to do any business. Thus, the stalemate.
From my desk, where I work on a lot of defensive issues, I would say I agree with the Buffalo News about getting back to work - but we don't necessarily want the same Senate as we had for the past six months getting back to work... After the deficit-reduction package, the disastrous state budget, increased spending, increased taxes and a definitive snub to Upstate as far as leadership and clout, a change would be beneficial. We haven't really taken a position as to whether the Dems remain in power with new leadership or the "coalition" ultimately be in control, but what was in place before wasn't working. For items that had momentum up until last Monday like IDA wage mandates, expansion of unemployment and FMLA - letting these issues drift off into the sunset wouldn't be a bad thing for Upstate's employers. Of course, we've also made headway on legislation such as keeping NYPA proceeds in our region, so we need some action from the State Legislature to keep those initiatives bubbling.
Today's Partnership "Email from the President" talks about how we're "staying the course" in relation to our advocacy efforts. Truth is, regardless of who's in charge, we still have the same priorities, and we'll continue to advocate on those issues - even if the tactics or strategies need to be tweaked to reflect changes in Albany.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Quick question, though - in the Democrats' proposed "power sharing" plan, where the two parties alternate who would be President of the Senate each day... Would that mean should something God forbid happen to Governor Paterson, whoever was Senate President that day would become Governor? You know what else is interesting - that throughout all of this no one has brought up any reform measure that would name a lieutenant governor in the absence of a the lieutenant governor. Everything that's happening is certainly interesting politics - but shouldn't something be tweaked so nothing like this happens again?
That all being said, the Partnership engaged in two press conferences this week on state issues we're forwarding.
First, on Saturday, we held a press conference with Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak and other members of the WNY state delegation in support of legislation that would allocate proceeds from unused hydropower to the Western New York Economic Development Fund to help create jobs and spur development locally. The Buffalo News estimates that unused power - that's hydropower that has been allocated to companies that aren't using their full allocation, or to companies that contractually have the power, but are still in development - has returned $161MM to the New York Power Authority from 2005 to 2008. Imagine what our region could do with that cash, in incentivizing new private sector investment, remediating brownfields or improving infrastructure. We're very much looking forward to progress on this bill, and thank our lead sponsors - Gabryszak and Senator Bill Stachowski - for their leadership.
Second, today, the Partnership is participating in a press event in Albany related to restoration of the civic facilities component of IDA legislation. As we've discussed before, over $2.5 billion worth of projects (and thousands of jobs) are being held hostage by labor, who won't agree to support the restitution of IDA incentives for "civic facilities" projects - such as hospitals, schools and senior homes - unless legislators add costly wage mandates to IDA projects. We still don't see the logic in this - sure, principles are important, but I'd be pretty upset if an organization that I was paying dues into was making a political play by holding back $2.5 billion worth of construction work that I could get my hands on in a tough economy. I guess I just don't understand the way the unions operate. Hopefully, the state will have an epiphany that there are ways to stimulate the economy that don't cost taxpayers a cent, and that civic facilities is one of them!
We'll keep you posted.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Among the reforms the coalition passed:
- Majority Leader will have a term limit of six (6) years
- Senate committee chairs and ranking members will have term limits of eight (8) years
- Member items ("pork") and staffing resources will be more evenly apportioned, regardless of majority vs. minority
- All agenda items and voting records will be posted on the Senate web site
- State legislative sessions will be broadcast statewide
- New rules to allow a majority of Senate members to bring an item to the floor (rather than simply at the whim of the Majority Leader)
The interesting thing is - what happens to the reforms that were passed last week? I think few taxpayers in the state would argue that reforms of the way the Senate (and the Assembly, of course) does business are needed. So what happens if the Senate does, indeed "flip" back to the Democrats? Will they maintain (if the court determines that the vots were legal) the reforms, or move them again if necessary? I think they'd be hard-pressed not to.
Either way, it's an interesting way to get something done: either the "coalition" majority will be in effect going forward, or there will be heavy pressure on the Dems returning to power after a week to enact the reforms - among which will be better staff and pork distribution among the majority and minority.
Good government is good politics.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Also in the news today is the story of Carl Paladino's suggestion that the Partnership is ineffective and his demand for leadership change. This debate will likely be held at the 20,000-foot level on the front page of the newspaper, so I'm not going to delve into it here, where we talk about issues. It did raise an interesting thought, though... It is very interesting how much of the work we do at the Partnership - and as Policy Director, I see it every day - never makes it into the mainstream media simply because we've been successful in squashing it. There are no less than 20 pieces of legislation I personally am tracking (and my colleagues are tracking others) and having discussions about with people across the state that I hope never see the light of day because they're that bad for the Upstate economy. So, it's easy to get emotional about your organization being called "ineffective," but I take pride in the fact that if my colleagues and I were not making arguments and engaging in debate in "big picture" issues like wage mandates on private businesses, elimination of secret ballot in union organization efforts and mandatory health insurance regardless of the cost, the likelihood of seeing those happen would be much, much greater. And that doesn't even touch upon our Buffalo Niagara 360 program, business-to-business networking facilitation and employer retention program.
That all being said - we'll let that argument take its course and get back to business. Despite the uncertainty in the State Senate, we continue to push for targeted legislation to move forward by the "end" of session, whenever that might be. Obviously, getting the Assembly to pass the UB2020 legislation is our top priority, and we are working very hard to quell any downstate concerns - mostly related to "what do I get out of this?" The way we see it, UB2020 is a pilot - and a great target for trying out this flexibility because our region and UB already have a plan. It's a very aggressive economic development plan that will reshape our region. If it works, we'll certainly be 100% supportive of giving other SUNY institutions across the state that same support as they develop their own plans.
Some other things we're keeping alive as the Senate figures out what it's going to do:
- Tax increment financing (TIF) legislation to encourage brownfield redevelopment
- Historic Preservation Tax Credit legislation (see the Partnership's letter of support)
- Extension of IDA civic facilities (without wage mandates)
- Opposition to a number of defensive issues including expansion of unemployment benefits, expansion of FMLA, and the Hoyt/Thompson IDA "reform" bill
I told you - lots going on. Have a great weekend!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
“I am pleased to welcome Mr. Golisano as a new member of Unshackle Upstate,” said Andrew Rudnick, President & CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and a founder of Unshackle Upstate. “Mr. Golisano is an entrepreneur who has created many jobs in this state. He understands the issues facing employers, and how they are tied to the lack of reform in Albany. We look forward to working with him to amplify our voice and strengthen our political action efforts to advance our goals of reducing state spending and improving the conditions of upstate businesses.”
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"It was so cool to meet Trent Edwards!"
Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edward’s colleagues- including Paul Posluszny, 2009 draft pick Andy Levitre, tight end C.J Leak and Bills alumni also came out to enjoy the evening and support their General Manager, Russ Brandon, in his participation with the event keynote address. The Bills are celebrating their 50th year in Buffalo, and they too had a story to share. By taking a moment to look back, we can truly appreciate how far they have come, and what it means to be one of the NFL's oldest franchises.
"The business stories were inspiring."
The Partnership has over 300 member businesses that have been in operation over 50 years. These member businesses shared their stories and their secrets for success in the event “play book” distributed to all attendees. Throughout the keynote address, many of these companies were highlighted as models of how to remain relevant and successful throughout the ups, downs, and drastic changes that our region has experienced in the past half century.
"The food/drinks were fantastic!"
Local restaurants joined in on the celebration, offering attendees samples of their signature items. From homemade pasta to tiramisu, and of course Buffalo chicken wings, the variety of menu items suited all preferences.
"I made key connections- what a great crowd"
Local businesses large and small came out to celebrate our region. The diverse crowd- including the Buffalo Bills players & staff, the Partnership Board, the Monday Quarterback Club, the Bills Alumni association, public, private, and non-profit businesses, and Buffalo Niagara 360 members- mixed & mingled throughout the evening. Business relationships were started, rekindled, developed, and enhanced throughout the evening.
"CONGRATULATIONS and THANKS! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!"
All quotes are taken directly from members who participated in the Endurance All-Stars event. To the event participants, sponsors, and all Buffalo Niagara Partnership members- thank you for your support yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Thank you for giving us so much to celebrate in the region.
Check out the Endurance All Stars event recap featuring a photo gallery, Buffalo Bills All-time team highlights video and Andrew Rudnick's address at http://www.thepartnership.org/Home/Programs/EnduranceAllStars
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
While this was happening, we were also in Albany testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Insurance on the concept of "prior approval" of health insurance rates (read our full testimony here). In short, what that would mean is that as health insurance carriers determine their rates each year, they would need to seek the approval of the State's Insurance Department before making any increases. While no one likes rate increases of any kind, what that would do is take health insurance rates that are determined by the market - and, mind you, the proposed legislation does nothing to address the high COST of health care - and puts them in the hands of the government. The legislation seeks to take New York back to a failed experiment with prior approval in the 1990s, where health insurance rates would be artificially suppressed in election years, and then balloon in non-election years.
As a rule, we oppose taking things determined by the market and handing them over to the government to regulate. There are too many factors involved that make up that cost - in this case, pharmaceutical expenses, technological changes in medical procedures and products, expansion of insurance coverage, changes in the state's aging population. Oh, and of course the $850 million in taxes that Albany slapped on health insurace this year alone! From our perspective, regulation would also take away the insurance companies' flexibility in implementing new procedures and technology that would ultimately SAVE cost later.
I'm one of those rare people that actually enjoys public hearings (productive ones, that is - I'll explain in a moment), mainly because it's a good place to hear the opposition's arguments spelled out - if they have arguments. Yesterday was interesting - most of the opposition's argument was related, of course, to the big, bad insurance companies and how they overcharge and keep excessive reserves (which we learned are actually imperative for emergency coverage for catastrophic events such as 9/11 or pandemic). One group suggested that the proposed legislation wasn't even strong enough - that not only should the Insurance Department get the final say on rate approval, but that there should be public hearings for every rate increase. I believe someone said there were over 1,400 health insurance plans statewide - should be a fun time.
I have to give Assemblyman Joe Morelle from Rochester, who chaired the hearing credit - he did a phenomenal job, asking poignant, pertinent questions of speakers throughout the day. To these people, he asked what the purpose of such public hearings would be - so that everyone could scream and yell about insurance rates? They didn't have an answer. If you think about it, it's like having a public hearing about cancer. Who's going to show up in favor of it? It happens - and screaming about it does nothing. Instead, let's work to fix the problem. It befuddles me that the same people who are pushing for regulation on insurance rates are the same people who want health care in New York to be the "Cadillac" program in the country. The most comprehensive coverage in the nation requires someone to pay for it. "Prior approval" doesn't change the cost of health care - it just masks it.
For the Partnership and Unshackle Upstate, it gave us the chance to talk about some of our proposals to cut the cost of health care. We know that's where the discussion should be focused.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) and Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens) voted with the Republicans for the leadership change. Espada was nominated Senate president and Sen. Dean Skelos will resume his position as Majority Leader that he held before Democrats took over the State Senate in January.
What does this mean for us? It means a lot of bad legislation that was moving through various committees will have a much tougher go. We'll continue to keep a watchful eye on unemployment and Paid Family Leave expansion and IDA wage mandates - which if history is any indication this new majority will not support - as well as continuing to raise the issues of Tier V pension reform and the property tax cap.
More to follow.
Friday, June 5, 2009
In addition, a little research will shed some light on the mission behind the message. The top two names on the committee's Advisory Board - their personal business interests rely on... You guessed it - unions. Stands to reason that if there were more unions, there would be more business for these two gentlemen. Kind of takes away from the "unions are good for workers AND employers AND America" message that they're trying to send.
I also like this statement, under "Resources" on their web site. Second link down - "Employee Free Choice Act: Good for Small Business." Read the first sentence:
"Businesses that comply with the law face unfair competition from companies who refuse to respect the rights of their employees to join unions."Now, there's a consistent finger-pointing argument related to organization efforts where the employers say the unions use bad tactics and vice-versa. However, if you read this sentence it's a pretty clear admission that having a union can be a competitive disadvantage for an employer. Not saying that's always the case - we have many members here at the Partnership that are union shops and are pleased with their organization. However, if there's a chance that a union can put employers at a disadvantage - as this statement on the "Business Leaders for a Fair Economy" web site states pretty succinctly - why would it be a positive thing for the government to shove unions down their throats with this legislation?
Believe me, I could sit here and write 5,000 words picking apart different pieces of this web site. Bottom line is - I hope our elected reps in Washington are smart enough to see through this. EFCA is a union bill and only a union bill. If it passes, it will be because "special" interests win the day and most certainly not based on the merits of the legislation. The business community is decidedly opposed to it, regardless of what these "self" interests say.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
As you know, UB2020 is the Partnership's - and the Buffalo Niagara region's - top economic development priority, highlighted in the 2009 Buffalo Niagara Regional Agenda. With the unanimous agreement of our Regional Agenda partners, we believe UB2020 likely can be the biggest single economic development project in Buffalo Niagara's history - with a potential impact that this community - in fact, all of Upstate - has not seen before.
It's no mystery that aspects of UB2020 will need investment down the road. But right now, the policy changes outlined in S.2020 are necessary to propel the UB2020 program forward. The beauty of it is that the changes are high-impact, no-cost to taxpayers - what more could we ask?! If implemented, they would allow UB the flexibility not only to grow as a university, but also to serve as a much bigger-picture part of the Buffalo Niagara regional economy and community, especially in our urban core. Remember, with implementation of UB2020, we're talking about $3.6 billion in economic impact for the region, with 10,000 new jobs (not even counting construction!).
Specifically, S.2020 allows UB to implement a rational tuition policy whereby the university retains revenues from small increases in tuition to reinvest. It also provides UB with flexibility in spending and contracting (including giving the ability to engage in public-private partnerships), access to capital markets and the ability to lease and purchase land and facilities. Flexibility is key - and this legislation, if passed by the full legislature, will give UB the flexibility to grow enjoyed by other major research universities across the country.
This is great news for UB and for the Buffalo Niagara region - and we'll be advocating strongly for the Assembly to follow the State Senate's lead.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
BN360 member Navpreet Jatana shares this summary of the BNMC Tour:
On April 30th, a cool, rainy spring afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus [BNMC]. The tour, arranged by Buffalo Niagara 360, was intended to expose business executives and professionals to the medical innovation taking place in the Buffalo Niagara region.
The event participants gathered in Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s [RPCI] Zebro Conference Center. Ann Mestrovich, the tour organizer welcomed the group. There were a total of three “tour guides”, including Pat Whalen, the COO of the BNMC, Karen Utz of the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences and Lisa Damiani, the Executive Director of Government Affairs at RPCI.
Check out the video where Pat Whalen and Michael Ball talk about the BNMC:
Buffalo Niagara 360: Featured Members - BNMC, Buffalo BioSciences, Kinex Pharmaceuticals
The RPCI Tour
We broke off into three groups. I joined Lisa Damiani’s group to tour RPCI. As we made our way through various corridors, Lisa provided an overview of RPCI. The group shuffled into the Photodynamic Therapy [PDT] Lab. Here, Dr. Sandra Gollnick explained the origins and applications of this innovative therapy, including effectively treating lung, skin, and breast cancer, to name a few.
We returned to RPCI’s Center for Genetics and Pharmacology, the distinctive five-floor building with the textured and sculptural exterior. As we walked, Lisa explained the architecture incorporated bends in corridors and open spaces to emphasize the nature of science and discovery. We learned the building uses 30% less energy by separating the large, noisy, heat-producing equipment from the “wet” labs, the modular benches where the scientists conduct experiments. I really felt the design of the building encouraged an open, collaborative environment—a place where you know great things are happening. To see for yourself how much fun we had, check out the tour recap video by Full Circle Studios.
Here are a few interesting facts I picked up:
- As a whole, BNMC institutions employ more than 25,000 people in WNY
- There are 9 major institutions and more than 20 life sciences companies on the BNMC
- Pioneered by RPCI, Photodynamic Therapy is now used world-wide
- PDT has generated $20M in patent royalties for RPCI and patients travel from all over the world to be treated by PDT
- Dr. Ravindra K. Pandey is developing the next generation of PDT which will have fewer side effects.
Wow. I am truly excited about the healthcare innovations taking place here in the Buffalo Niagara region.
I'm won't usurp points from Dr. Rudnick's speech tonight, but from the perspective of this blog, the most amazing thing that any of the employers being honored this evening have accomplished is the evolution of their mission to meet changing times. Let's face it - the world is a completely different place than it was 50 years ago. The Eisenhower Highway System was just beginning construction, so logistics were a different animal; computers were relegated to sci-fi movies, and communication - Forget about it... The fax machine wasn't even invented for another 15 years. Staying in business during such dramatic shifts in the way the world works has required a proactive approach to embracing change. Isn't it ironic that part of our advertising of Endurance All-Stars has been through Twitter and Facebook - exemplifying that principle.
But the coolest part is that through all of that - through the expansion to a global economy, the internet and the increased use of technology over the past 50 years - what matters more than anything is the personal touch of customer service. We asked the companies we're honoring what their secret to success was, and without hesitation, this was the most important piece of the puzzle. That's a great piece of advice for entrepreneurs, and truthfully for anyone in any field. Regardless of what heights technology can take you to - personal, human interaction... relationships, whether they be business, personal or political... are the most important thing to getting anything done.
I hope to see you at the event tonight. It'll be a refreshing and encouraging break from daily news of the recession to see companies that continue to churn regardless of what the world throws at them.
Monday, June 1, 2009
There is a heightened effort afoot by Unshackle Upstate with the 2009 state legislative session coming to a close. There are a host of proposals on the table to create wage mandates on private employers, expand unemployment, and implement other methods of sucking employers dry. I urge you to jump in on Unshackle Upstate's advocacy campaign by sending a message to the governor and state legislature.
I continue to go back to the op-ed written by the Working Families Party that called the legislators who voted for the state budget - and the increased taxes that came with that vote - "courageous." In trying to define "courageous," it occurred to me that an elected official relying on increased taxes in making fiscal decisions is, in fact, just the opposite - it's about the least courageous thing that one can do. Now, you might say that an elected official who raises taxes has to then face the voters - but in New York, we know how much weight that carries. What it essentially amounts to is foregoing any avenue to come up with creative solutions. Elected officials are faced with two options when dealing with fiscal adversity - raise taxes or cut spending. We wish that there was as much thought given to creative ways to cut spending as there was to raise taxes. "Courage" is not looking at the first and easiest option and taking it.
Get involved in restoring courage to state government - join Unshackle Upstate's campaign!