Monday, August 31, 2009
A coalition of statewide businesses aimed at stopping these trucking restrictions has been formed, and is advocating during the review period. The Partnership is joining this advocacy effort to shoot down what we think would be an awful precedent to set. Fortunately, simultaneously, Governor Paterson has established the Trucking Industry and Community Relations Task Force, on which a number of members of the coalition will sit.
At the most practical level, a diversion of truck traffic around these highways will increase the cost of transportation, ultimately affecting consumer prices for the goods being shipped - and it's important to note that just about everything we use on a daily basis was on a truck at some point. In fact, the New York Farm Bureau estimates that these new regulations will cost affected farmers and farm related businesses anywhere from $43,000 to $960,000 per year. Where are those particular costs recouped? At the grocery store.
And that's just agribusiness - the coalition's web site also reports that 92% of all manufactured goods in New York State are carried by truck. Now, seven highways in Central New York obviously do not account for every rural highway in the state - but this kind of regulation, given support in one community, can easily spread. Multiply the cost of traffic diversion by multiple regions, and you've got yet another expensive impediment to doing business in New York State.
You can get involved during the 45-day review period in the effort to put a halt to these trucking regulations that will benefit a very few at the expense of everyone else. Click here to sign the coalition's petition to the governor to stop the restrictions.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
In New York State, of course, we're well familiar with fusion voting - it's the process that allows candidates to run on multiple lines on the ballot. You'll see, for instance, in the upcoming town races, board members who run as Republican, Independence and Conservative, for example. The minor parties will endorse candidates generally already holding either the Democrat or Republican lines, as running their own candidates is generally not successful (though candidates have indeed won elections on minor party lines in WNY, albeit rarely).
Sound fair? Here's the problem: Given that a line on the ballot is without a doubt the most powerful election tool there is, fusion voting gives minor parties tremendous influence over policy in that they are able to hold that line hostage over elected officials' heads in return for their support. We've seen it happen - the "Walmart Bill" two years ago was the best example - and the Working Families Party not only practices it, but they herald the notion right on their web site.
This puts an awful lot of power into a small percentage of the state's taxpayers. And let's look at some of the policy issues that power has influenced:
- Wage and benefit mandates that tell prospective employers that New York is going to dictate their relationship with their employees;
- The "Fair Share" tax that placed the state's fiscal problems on the backs of New York's small businesses earlier this year;
- Hold-up of IDA legislation that would allow $2.3 billion in work on not-for-profit expansion projects in New York to commence; and
- A bloated state government where state employees' job, pay, benefits, pension and perks are untouchable and vehemently protected despite that fact that taxpayers' continue to be in jeopardy.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The interesting thing this prioritization does, as well, is move back the Card Check debate possibly as far as into 2010. Not that we at this point can consider anything a victory, but we'd much rather have our federal reps faced with passing something as un-American as revoking a workers' right to secret ballot in an election year.
In cooperation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's efforts, we'll continue to keep up the pressure in opposition to Card Check - regardless of what encouraging reports we might hear. The nationwide opposition effort is having impact.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
This is my favorite kind of advocacy... We met directly at one of the companies, talked in the conference room, and took a tour of the facility to actually see the working men and women whose jobs would be impacted if this legislation passes. In this case, the word "impacted" means "lost," as the estimates from this bill are about 2,500 jobs lost in the Buffalo Niagara region alone. Professional services, including collections, is a growing target industry cluster in our region, so the impact of this bill would hit especially hard here. During the meeting this morning, this legislation was described as "an attack on Western New York." Making a presentation like this on-site sends a powerful message.
Here's what downstate interests want to do: Take the current 5-year statute of limitations on debt collection and change it to 3 years - with debt being exonerated after those three years. It is estimated that 40% of the work of debt collection agencies focuses on debt that has been in existence more than 3 years - which means that 40% of the work would be lost (e.g. 40% of the jobs). In addition, with only a 3-year window, the move by creditors to take legal action to collect - rather than negotiate an out-of-court settlement - will take place much, much sooner in the process. So who is this helping?
In addition, with a higher likelihood of uncollected debt, creditors will be much more reticent to offer credit in New York State. This is a problem for small businesses, who often rely on credit to carry them through seasons when cashflow is slow. In an already tight credit market, NY's small businesses can't afford any more impediment to success and growth. And that tightened credit will go for consumers, as well.
The Consumer Credit Fairness Act, while like so many other bills named strategically and politically well, is bad legislation that benefits a very small segment of the population at the direct expense of the rest. It is particularly burdensome here in WNY, which is why 6 out of the 9 members of the WNY Assembly delegation opposed it. We'll be looking for our delegation state senators to do the same.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
During Wednesday's 8/19 interview and debate with Elizabeth Edwards on Larry King Live the former secretary referenced Liazon as an example of how private insurers could address the task of providing affordable coverage for Americans.
Given Partnership member feedback and dramatic changes being implemented by the insurance carriers in the last year, the Partnership decided to re-invent its benefits program to make it an even more valuable benefit to members and their employees.
The Partnership joined forces with Liazon last year to bring members the real benefits innovation they demand, with Liazon's Bright Choices program increasing benefits choices, lowering cost and making it easy to buy the benefits needed.
To learn more about Liazon on Larry King Live check out: www.prweb.com/releases/healthcare/liazon/prweb2776784.htm
If you are interested in learning about how the Partnership's benefits program can help you save money, please feel free to contact TJ Baker at 716-541-1715 with any questions you may have. You can also check out www.thepartnership.org/Home/Membership/Benefits/insurance
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Today, Unshackle Upstate called for the state legislature to undo the loophole that allows this "double-dipping" to take place. In truth, the loophole was actually closed in 1995 for anyone elected after that year, but currently there are about 50 legislators that are still eligible - or soon will be. We want the loophole closed completely.
There's an ironic story that goes along here... Today we received a notice from the NYS Commission on Public Integrity that we were being fined for our quarterly lobbying expense report being filed late. Truth is, we tried a number of times to file well in advance of the deadline, but the Commission's web site was down. We ended up faxing it in (yay, technology!), albeit late. Nonetheless, NYS government is seriously on top of things when it comes to public integrity.
Problem is, when we think of public integrity violations, we think that sitting state legislators collecting their state pension on top of their state salaries is a little more egregious. Maybe it'd be better to start there.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
We're still in a recession, so the notion of approaching debt collection with understanding is commendable. However, the collections industry estimates that this legislation would wipe out approximately 40% of consumer credit debt in New York State. In Buffalo Niagara alone, where debt collection is an area of market job growth - currently employing over 5,200 in well-paying jobs - that drop would mean over 2,500 jobs at risk. I don't have to tell you that we can ill-afford putting 2,500 people out of work.
The spin-off effect will be much higher risk for banks to provide credit in New York State. Which means that small businesses who strategically utilize credit to supplement cash flow at certain times will find the banks more reluctant to offer it to them. In an already tight credit market, the small business community cannot withstand further impediment.
To the credit of our WNY state delegation, six (Corwin, Hayes, Hoyt, Quinn, Schimminger and Schroeder) out of our nine Assemblymembers saw the damage this legislation would inflict on Buffalo Niagara's workforce and voted against it. We'll be advocating for our WNY State Senate delegation to do the same.
Monday, August 17, 2009
When our elected officials do something we don’t like, it seems very natural for a business advocacy organization such as the Partnership to be the leaders in the bomb throwing. The thing is – we do take a leadership role in providing a critical look at the actions of our representatives. We just don’t do it as haphazardly and angrily as someone like Carl Paladino would demand (and has demanded) we should… Politics is a process, and we indeed weigh in heavily when the time is appropriate and when there is strategic purpose for doing so. Since state elections are 15 months away, burying in public a state legislator that we will be working with for at least another year still is simply not strategic and definitely not smart politics.
You see, the Partnership isn’t just a business advocacy organization – it’s a membership organization. Our mission is to help our employer members grow, and as a result, grow the regional economy. I’m curious to know how we would do that if we adopted the angry, lashing-out attack strategy that has been suggested. And when I talk about our members, I’m not talking about “Andy’s inner circle” that Mr. Paladino continues to reference. I’m talking about a host of members who need to make and preserve relationships to do business (and hire people!) in this region – among them developers, planners, designers, printers, law firms, manufacturers, farmers, transportation companies, trade and logistics companies, hospitals, universities and colleges and so many others. Our job here at the Partnership is to build bridges – not tear them down.
Let’s take our relationship with Senator Bill Stachowski as an example. Senator Stachowski earlier this year ascended to the majority with the Democrats for the first time in a long senate career, and immediately was charged with dealing with a budget deficit of historic proportions. To our dismay, and despite our lobbying efforts, he sided with the Majority Leader and supported a budget that is horrendous for Upstate – and we, through our own efforts and Unshackle Upstate’s – have chastised the senator and his colleagues very publicly for it. In fact, the Unshackle Upstate coalition went out and solicited a new member – Tom Golisano – as a part of the effort to let Albany know that our political fundraising efforts next year are going to be heavy, and will be geared toward ensuring nothing like this ever happens again. We’ve had direct conversation with Senator Stachowski, and he is well aware of our positions – in fact, this week he’s coming “into the lion’s den” to meet face-to-face with our members. Do you think we’d have that access if we’d chosen “no holds barred” bulldog approach?
The next question, of course, would be “what does access get us?” The bad state budget still passed. Well, last month, the Governor signed into law a bill the Partnership has been lobbying for that will provide a tax credit for developers engaged in historic preservation projects. You see, in development it’s much, much cheaper to build new than to rehab – so many rehab projects are not undertaken simply for financial reasons. This legislation gives developers a reason to come back into the cities and provide important urban revitalization. It’s not a sexy bill, but it’s a big win for economic development efforts that we’ve been trying to pass for a couple years – and an incentive that I can almost guarantee Mr. Paladino will utilize in his business. The state senator who sponsored and moved this legislation: Bill Stachowski.
In addition, Senator Stachowski also sponsored the UB2020 bill (which did pass the State Senate this year) and legislation to keep proceeds for unused NYPA power allocations in Buffalo Niagara to promote economic development. Would you throw that support away in favor of making a political statement?
There’s a side to the Partnership and similar organizations throughout the country that gets lost in Mr. Paladino’s rhetoric – and that’s business development. Advocacy is certainly a top priority of this organization, and a degree of politics comes with that. But we only do the advocacy so that our employer members (and future employers investing in our region) have a reason and opportunity to stay and grow here.
And, even though a few might suggest otherwise, it’s working:
- Did you know the Partnership’s lobbying efforts in collaboration with other northern border business organizations were responsible for the delay in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the implementation of Enhanced Drivers’ Licenses in New York State? The bedlam that would’ve taken place in border communities not prepared for regulations that were not well-thought-out before the delay would have been astronomical.
- Did you know that since the Partnership kicked off Bufflink in 2001, over 1,400 new jobs have been created in the region’s life sciences industry?
- Did you know that funding for the downtown Federal Courthouse, NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Erie County Public Safety Campus and the retention of the Niagara Air Reserve Station all resulted from their inclusion in the annual Regional Agenda, a project spearheaded by the Partnership?
That’s not to mention the individual members the Partnership works with every day – whether it’s connecting them at their request to the right contact at Empire State Development to assist in their expansion; or weighing in on a members’ behalf on a piece of state or federal legislation that would hurt their bottom line; or providing them essential business and demographic information to enhance their marketing and growth plans; or providing a forum, professional development and the opportunity for their young professionals to stay in Buffalo Niagara and grow their careers here at home through our Buffalo Niagara 360 program.
In the end, every staffer here at the Partnership, up to and including Andrew, works for, and on behalf of, our members. Mr. Paladino can bash Andrew and our work as much as he wants, but the point of the matter is that our members – the ones we’re really serving – continue to re-hire us year after year for a reason: because the business services we’re providing to them are worthwhile, the voice we’re raising on their behalf is accurate and fruitful, and the vision we’ve laid out – yes, under Andrew Rudnick – is well-conceived, inclusive and appropriate. Every June (end of our fiscal year) there’s a chance to make a change, and our members haven’t seen reason to do so.
There is some merit to having a bulldog in any region – including ours – who lambastes without restraint politicians for their misdeeds and poor judgment. It’s clear that Mr. Paladino savors that role, and it seems appropriate for him – and we know Buffalo loves a fighter. We Sabres fans rejoice when Andrew Peters drop his gloves and start wailing on some Maple Leaf – but it's important to note that Peters has scored four goals in five years with the Sabres. The Buffalo Niagara employer community needs the puck in the net. That’s where we come in.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
There were concurrent workshops on topics ranging from “Landing Your Next Job in a Tough Economy” to “Job Hunting with Social Networks”; a drop-in resume critiquing area provided by human resource and career planning professionals, in which 250 resumes were reviewed; and a resource fair with almost 60 organizations providing training, education, and programming to assist people in developing their careers such as ISciWNY, the Buffalo Employment and Training Center, and Hispanics United. Over 40 local employers were on hand to network and talk about their companies, as well.
The Buffalo Niagara region is fortunate to have so many job search resources available, but it can also be confusing and a little overwhelming at times for both for job seekers and employers. By having so many organizations and workforce development professionals in the same room, we hope this event provided helpful guidance and renewed optimism for a successful job search. As I mentioned in the Buffalo News, many jobs aren’t always advertised and one needs to be diligent in networking and learning all they can about local employers. For a list of participating employers, please visit http://www.employmewny.org/
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There is yet another Paladino e-mail going around - this one speaks of a full staff meeting held at the Partnership last month where staff members were told that "due to declining membership" there would be no raises or bonuses forthcoming this year. The original e-mail to Carl telling him of this horrible occurrence is, of course, anonymous, and, of course, as we all know, "anonymous" is a very credible source.
This Paladino situation has become an exercise in fact vs. fiction. Yes, a meeting was held last month with the entire Partnership staff - as an "end-of-fiscal-year" meeting is held every year with the entire staff. And yes, in that meeting, staff was told that there would be no raises or bonuses forthcoming. It's in the interpretation of this where Carl's certified informant is off-base. Based on projections (which means the future), the Partnership board is taking a conservative approach to expeditures. In fact, the projections were so conservative that we were told there would be a mid-fiscal-year budget review in December/January to re-evaluate - when the national economic recovery is hopefully moving forward. In taking this approach, the board was able to move from FY 08/09 to FY 09/10 without laying off a single employee. To people that "get it," that means that we can continue to provide the high level of service our members are used to without creating holes in our programming.
Carl doesn't seem to understand the fact that the entire nation is in a recession. How responsible would it be for a membership organization to be handing out raises and bonuses when its members are feeling the pain of the economic downturn? No bonuses and raises are not a result of "declining membership," as Carl would suggest (in fact, the Partnership's retention rate even during this recession is 87%, which is slightly above the national average for chambers). It's the result of conservative planning and responsible handling of our members' money. I suppose given Carl's forwarding of this e-mail to paint an ugly picture of life and times at the Partnership means that he'd handle things differently in his "chamber."
As far as the "disgruntled staff" that Carl continues to reference - we're not seeing it here in the building (suggesting that Carl's "reliable" source could be a disgruntled EX-employee). One pass through your LinkedIn contacts will show a number of colleagues and friends who are out of work, and the fact that our employer respected the work we do enough to make sure we still had a job - well, that doesn't go unnoticed. In fact, the only thing that's getting people disgruntled is working hard to grow business and provide our members value every day and having someone out in the community without facts or credibility taking shots at us.
Bottom line is Paladino needs a new informant - one with the facts (and a name, perhaps?).
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Hey, every politician wants to claim that they "created jobs"!
This is raising some ire throughout the state, but it's really disheartening. You can lobby issues and agendas all you want, but you can't lobby ethics - you can't make people be inherently good. The fact that 18 million people in New York State had their affairs held hostage for over a month while one person negotiated a cushy job for his son is disgusting. And while there's probably nothing illegal about it, ethically it stinks bad. You can even respect a politician holding out for funding for a pet project or something for his or her constituents - but for a job for his son? Take THAT New York taxpayers!
But Espada doesn't really care what we Upstaters think about things. There is a great opportunity here for one of our Upstate senators to be vocal and condemn this kind of practice - and it'd mean even more if it came from the Senate majority.
Monday, August 10, 2009
On Saturday, the News had printed an op-ed by one of the region's labor leaders highlighting the merits of prevailing wage. It continues to be the same-old argument - how union policies such as prevailing wage and apprenticeship are good for the community. I sat through the debate on the floor of the county legislature a few weeks ago - same message. Let me state this unequivocally - the business community believes in an economy with good wages and good training for the future workforce. It's how to go about getting there - and we believe wholeheartedly that forcing those things through regulations and mandates is destructive. If employers see an environment where they can exist and create jobs without government being all over their backs - guess what? They'll come here - and bring good-paying jobs (and training for those jobs) with them. Labor, however, continues to tug on the heartstrings of the public with their message painting a picture that without regulations employers only hire people from out-of-state, pay them pennies, and do poor work. They ignore - or better yet, steer the discussion away from - the deeper issue that employers (those who actually create jobs) have the choice to go elsewhere in the country where they don't have to deal with things like prevailing wage and apprenticeship regulations.
This debate is about the fact that mandates such as prevailing wage and apprenticeship deter economic development. The business community has put no less than SIX compromise proposals on the table to settle the IDA issue at the state level, and labor has balked at all of them. Why? Because none of this is about fighting for the poor working man or woman of Erie County and New York State - it's about shutting non-union contractors out of public work opportunities, regardless of the increased cost to taxpayers, or in this case, not-for-profits. As a result, economic development projects are stifled or even abandoned, and nobody gets to work on them - union or non-union.
This issue is not going away. Two weeks ago, labor and Democratic leaders held a "secret" meeting to discuss the rest of 2009 and into 2010. It is anticipated that they will make a strong push in the coming weeks for the passage of their IDA "reform" bill, which includes a prevailing wage mandate. So far, the state legislature has been more responsible than our Erie County reps, having not passed this job-killing legislation for the three years it's been proposed. Hopefully, they'll stay on track and, importantly, re-establish the incentive program for not-for-profits without adding wage mandates to it - there are over $2.3 billion worth of projects on hold statewide waiting for that to happen.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
First of all, as President of the Lancaster Chamber in addition to her role as Erie County legislator, Kathy has been great to work with as a legislator - one of a very few on that body that understand and forward the business community's message of creating a landscape in Erie County that is strong and attractive for job creation. She has been an advocate for employers and a vote against items that support special interests in the face of taxpayers. In this regard, she'll be missed on the legislature, and we hope that this November we can help put a like-minded individual into the 5th district seat.
Given our good relationship with her as legislator, we definitely look forward to working with her as part of the Collins administration. Kathy has been a vocal supporter of the Framework for Regional Growth, which guides our Erie County advocacy related to physical development, and we look forward to working together to move the regional plan forward. The DEP Commissioner has also traditionally been instrumental in the creation of the annual Regional Agenda, and a good working relationship should keep that process smooth as we work with Erie County and our other municipal partners.
Politically, Kathy's move to the county opens up an interesting situation in Erie County's 5th district, leaving the seat "open" for November (though the Democratic Party could appoint someone to the seat who could enjoy a few months of incumbency). In a district that has traditionally voted Republican, it's a great opportunity for Republicans to pick up a seat in an effort to edge toward at least a 6-9 minority (currently 3-12) in the legislature, which would, in theory, preserve any County Executive vetos.
All-in-all, we wish Kathy well, and look forward to working with her on a number of issues related to economic development in Erie County.
Monday, August 3, 2009
It's great to see such overwhelming support - from the chambers and from the mayors along the proposed track - including our Mayors Brown and Dyster. Due to the the due diligence that New York has already put in to HSR, we have a great opportunity to use to take advantage of federal funding and put people in Upstate New York to work on this project.