Monday, March 29, 2010
It's an interesting time for New York with our HSR program. Obviously, while we didn't get the vast amounts of cash for HSR that other states (or regions) did, we did get $151 million to work with - and it is now incumbent on New York to make good use of that funding. In the presentation above, there is a list of projects along the "Empire Corridor" that will be funded by that $151MM... Two are key - (1) the 2nd Main Track between Albany and Schenectedy, which is currently the main area of delay due to the mixing of faster passenger trains and slower freight rail; and (2) Phase 1 of dedicated passenger rail outside Batavia, which is the Corridor's foray into HSR. We make good on these projects, it puts us in a much stronger position for future funding.
Why did California, Florida and the Midwest get the lion's share of the funding? Certainly there are politics involved - but we also can't deny the fact that these states and regions have been at this a lot longer than we have. They've been planning for at least a decade longer than we have, have Rail Authorities established (which seemed to be something Washington liked to have in place), and in the Midwest, the collaboration among the various state governments was strong and effective. We must remember, though, that HSR is a big piece of our country's future, so this is just a start.
Beyond our morning session - which I was pleased to share with Chris Johnston from World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, Port Colburne Mayor Vance Badawey and Arlene White from the Binational Tourism Alliance (BTA) - it was a good conference put on by the BTA. Lots of good binational issues being discussed as part of a conversation that has taken far too long to get started.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Then this... This morning's New York Post talks about how State Senators are "selling" key committee posts to labor unions for political contributions. Nice, huh? No wonder such great results are coming out of state government.
All the more reason why we're pushing to raise $100,000 at our Political Action Committee event tomorrow night. That money will be spend on one thing - changing the way Albany does business. For too long, an anti-business sentiment has dominated Albany's thinking, and the results are evident: high taxes, high cost of doing business, high unemployment and high rate of exodus (of businesses AND people). The past two years have been abominable - beginning last April when Albany passed a state budget that increased spending by over $10 billion... DURING A RECESSION! Then paid for it on the backs of taxpayers through over $8 billion in new taxes, fees and assessments.
Are you angry enough? Do you want in on changing things up? We'd love to see you tomorrow night. This isn't only for Partnership members - this is the entire Buffalo Niagara business community saying (cliche) "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Here's the invite. If you have questions, e-mail me.
This is a pivotal time, and we need all hands on deck. I hope you can join in.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The DOL’s new regulations effectively undo the short lived Bush-era H-2A rules, rendering the program even more difficult to use. The new regulations are easy to violate and carry costly penalties if you do so, unknowingly or not. While I was on a national call with Immigration Works last week, a rep from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) referred to the new regulations as the “worst we have seen.” Watch the AFBF’s labor specialist talk about the new H-2A rules here.
The new regulations place costly burdens on farmers who use the program legitimately to find foreign workers to fill agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available or more accurately – for jobs U.S. workers do not want. Despite a critical shortage of agricultural workers in this country, 15 million Americans currently choose to work in jobs that pay an hourly wages far below that of the typical hourly wage for a farmworker. That leads us to the question, whose jobs are President Obama and the Department of Labor protecting with these new regulations??
Beyond placing insurmountable financial burdens on the agribusiness industry the DOL has added another provision to their ill-conceived reversal of the Bush regulations…Now, farmers must accept the workers that their state workforce agency sends them. Here’s how’s the new rule will work: Once the mandated referral time has elapsed and you have hired a H-2A worker (because they are the only ones who want this type of work) and your state workforce agency sends you an American candidate for a job you advertised for months ago, you have two options. 1) You can fire the H-2A worker and hire the American worker or 2) You can keep them both. Yes, those are your only two choices. What will most farmers do? They will keep both workers because American agricultural workers, on average, quit within 3 days of being hired.
Amidst the rhetoric, one crucial point is frequently overlooked – foreign workers often help keep American workers employed. The DOL probably doesn’t know this but every H-2B crab picker on Maryland's Eastern shore supports 2.5 jobs for native-born workers. Every farm job in the U.S. – 75% of which are filled by foreign workers on H-2A visas - sustains 3.5 non-farm jobs. And with every H-1B visa issued, American technology companies create 5 jobs for other workers.
So, all in all, the DOL’s new H-2A regulations make a bad situation worse. The AFBF is asking a federal district court to delay the Obama administration’s final rule on the H-2A foreign worker program in hopes that a comprehensive immigration will reach Capitol Hill this spring. Senators Schumer and Graham recently announced the framework of their bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. With health care reform on its way to the President’s desk, immigration reform is the next topic up for debate. If and when comprehensive immigration reform begins to move in Washington, the Partnership will take a firm stand to protect Buffalo Niagara’s agribusiness industry.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
One of the roles of the Partnership’s Business Development service is to help you understand the new market opportunities available for your business to access here in the Buffalo Niagara region. One of the ways we are doing this is through programs like this morning’s “Connecting your Company: Business Opportunities in the Wind Supply Chain.” The wind supply chain is one of those important new opportunities, and as pointed out by Dave Flynn, a partner at program sponsor Phillips Lytle, who specializes in environmental law and the energy, in particular with continued expansion of renewable energy sources, wind power is a long term and stable growth opportunity.
Some important themes to keep in mind when looking to establish a presence or expand existing presence in the wind supply chain:
*Bruce Hayward of Gleason Works, a gear company who supplies directly to OEMs, emphasized that it’s important to match your core competencies – whether as a manufacturer or an environmental engineering firm – with the industry before entering.
*Networking is key to successful entry. Get out to industry events, connect with local companies who are already suppliers, learn the ropes before you enter. There are some great resources out there to help you gain access to key players as you begin to enter the market. Some examples are the American Wind Energy Association, the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
*Think the only way to supply the wind supply chain is through the large OEMs like GE Wind and Clipper? Think again. The suppliers to the OEMs are looking for suppliers themselves. With hundreds of components in a tower, there are extensive opportunities for companies to work support this work.
*Manufacturers aren’t the only companies who can access the industry – strong service companies are essential as well. Construction, cranes, catering, attorneys, banks, marketing firms, are just a fraction of the types of companies needed in the development of, ongoing maintenance, and retrofitting and upgrading existing installations.
The time is now to get involved, and there are a few opportunities that can’t be missed for you and your company to get a head start. First, don’t forget to attend the second part of the Connecting your Company series, Funding Opportunities in the Wind Supply Chain. To reference Gleason Works again, a major capital investment was necessary for their firm – around $7-8 million dollars in addition to process improvements, system changes, and extensive research and development. How are you planning to fund your entry? Join us on April 15th 8:30-10:30am at the Buffalo Club to answer this piece of the puzzle.
Finally, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) has released an RFP for an offshore wind installation in Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario. A big piece of the RFP and something the Partnership fought for is utilizing local vendors and suppliers as a preference in response. To be included on the list of available resources for the companies responding to the RFP, visit the NYPA website and get listed!
In January, when the Executive Budget was released, it was aimed at closing a projected $7.4 billion deficit, which has now ballooned to be between an estimated $8.5 billion and $9 billion due to declining revenues. The Unshackle partners are determined to put an end this trend and have proposed ways to actually reduce spending in the 2010-11 budget.
While supporters of this budget note that it includes only minimal spending increases from the prior year, our Unshackle Partners firmly believe that our leaders in Albany must begin to take steps toward reducing the state’s spending patterns. We encourage you to join us in voicing your opposition to the proposed budget ... join the Unshackle Upstate Army today!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
While it's difficult to argue against a national defense-first line of thinking, border communities continue to battle an atmosphere where trade and the regional economies get the short end of the policy-making stick. Particularly harmed - obviously by the statistics - is trade between the U.S. and Canada, who are the world's two largest trade partners. We'll be in Washington mid-April as part of a Great Lakes Business Coalition lobbying trip to talk about that very issue.
Meanwhile, some electeds in Washington think even the harm caused by stricter border policy isn't enough - they're advocating for the elimination of NAFTA. They say it hurts the U.S. economy. Over $2.5 billion in trade crosses the Canadian and Mexican borders every day. That sounds like it's real bad for the economy. They'll argue that manufacturing jobs have been lost to those countries. In truth, it's a move to better productivity - and, hey, have they ever considered that high taxes and a burdensome regulatory environment conjured up by Washington and Albany special interests might have something to do with people being out of work?
For Buffalo Niagara, the trade coming through our international bridges is too vital a piece of our economy. We've already been hampered by the increased border regulations - understandable as they may be from a national security perspective. They inflicted more damage with protectionist language attached to federal stimulus funding. We can't afford for special interests to get in the way of our trade relationship with Canada. Check out our letter in opposition to this proposal.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Last year, we were successful in passing in the State Senate UB2020 legislation that would've given UB greater flexibility in setting tuitions (and, more importantly, giving UB that money to invest rather than using it to plug holes in the state budget) as well as the ability to engage in public-private partnerships to grow the university. Great legislation that would've provided high economic development impact at no cost to taxpayers at a time when there really isn't all kinds of money to be pumping into economic development programs. The way we see it - give the school a little flexibility to grow and the regional market will respond.
The State Senate responded, but the downstate-driven Assembly, of course, wondered what's in it for them? It was a valid question, but we emphasized that UB2020 was a test run - and that if proven successful, which we all know would be the case - other schools could follow suit. UB already had a plan in place, and the Buffalo Niagara region was "shovel-ready." That didn't fly, so in 2010, the legislation was expanded to include the entire SUNY system and became PHEEIA. And that's good - because now the rest of the state can realize the opportunities that our region has had its sights on for a while now.
We were thrilled when Governor Paterson included PHEEIA in his 2010-11 Executive Budget, and the advocacy kicked into gear. Our role has been to share with the rest of the state what we've been envisioning and why. We've been working with business organizations throughout the state - and in the past couple weeks, we're pleased that our counterparts in Albany, Rochester and Binghamton have come out avidly in favor of PHEEIA. Our Buffalo Niagara 360 program is working with young professional programs throughout the state to advocate for PHEEIA. If this legislation is to be achieved as part of the 2010-11 state budget, the time is now to engage on a statewide basis.
Tens of thousands of jobs, badly-needed public and private investment in downtown Buffalo and an economic impact to our region of over $2.6 billion. That's worth giving a shout out to your state legislators for their support. I encourage you get involved in the advocacy, so that PHEEIA, and as a result, UB2020 can move forward.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The IDA tax is yet another way that Albany found last year to shift funds in order to not have to cut the size and cost of government. But check out how this one works: the IDAs are 100% self-supported - its revenues come from fees. Those revenues are reinvested into economic development through various activities, such as paying for infrastructure elements of economic development projects, administering business marketing programs, buidling industrial or technology parks, etc. Everything the IDA invests in is designed to spur private sector investment and job growth.
Enter the state, which wants to get its grubby little hands on that cash. Moreover, there are many instances when the IDA will serve as a "pass-through" for economic development funds or tax dollars going from a project to a municipality. Sometimes that money is only in the IDA's accounts for a matter of days. Yep. The state wants that money, too.
To put it in perspective, in 2008 the Erie County IDA had a net income of $251,000. This tax assesses ECIDA at $226,240 - a tax rate of 90%. For some IDAs represented in the room today, the tax rate is over 100%, meaning they owe the state more than the total revenue they brought in. Somebody's doing some heavy-duty thinking there in Albany. Remember, every penny of that money that goes into the state's coffers to fill a budget gap is not spent on economic development.
The IDAs seem to be consistently under attack, whether it's this or the Hoyt/Thompson prevailing wage legislation. Only in New York would they create an economic development program that's supposed to mitigate the state's inability to control the cost burden of government and then try to tax and regulate it to the point where it's worthless.
This is another poster-child example of ill-conceived Albany policy-making. It needs to be fixed (by March 31, which, for now, is the due date for the first payment from the IDAs to the state).
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Through a partnership with a local college, CIPA has been able to find a solution by placing students in the growing health care industry. Bryant & Stratton College’s Medical Assisting program provides CIPA with well trained interns who need real world experience to ready them for the workforce. It is a win-win situation. College students gain real world work experience and training while physicians’ offices get the extra help they need in order to better care for their patients’ needs without straining their budgets. The connection these two establishments have made is a great example of how local employers can tap into the Buffalo’s emerging workforce.
Want to learn more about how to get a partnership of your own going? Your in luck… on March 26th join the Partnership for Accelerating Corporate Growth through Workforce Development. At this event hear from a panel of specialist about workforce development and learn how to accomplish your recruiting and training needs. Also learn about pre-screening candidates, connecting with professional networking groups and recent grads, as well as training programs created to fit the needs of your employees and company. This is a great way to figure out how to close the gap between the skilled employees you need and the employees you are attracting. You could even leave with an idea for the next innovative and successful partnership with a local college!
Monday, March 1, 2010
This month's "expert" is Independent Health's President & CEO Dr. Michael W. Cropp. Independent Health is among the leaders in the national health care debate. In this month's The Expert Forum advertorial, Dr. Cropp discusses Independent Health's role in Taking the Lead in Transforming Health Care. This is the first in a three part series discussing Independent Health's position with the local business community.
If your company is interested in participating in The Expert Forum and placing your company's advertorial on our website, please contact Lisa Roy, Investor Relations Manager at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, ay 541-1725.