Friday, April 30, 2010
Businesses will learn about developing access to high growth industry clusters; strategies for growing a client base outside the area; how to access contract lists for the Federal Government; and how small companies can land big clients. Presentation topics include: Overview and Trends of Local Small Business Economy by Thomas Ulbrich, Executive Director, UB School of Management, Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership; How to Leverage Your Assets -Your People - in Buffalo Niagara by Paul Herlan, Director for Business Development, Brisbane Consulting Group; Yes, Tim Horton's is a Big Deal by David Griggs, Business Development Director, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise; How to Grow with the New Regional Energy Industry by Gary Marchiori, President, EnergyMark LLC; and Accessing Federal Government Contracts by Larry Singer, CEO, Capital Asset Funding, Inc.
Tickets are $50 for members and $75 for non-members and are available online at www.thepartnership.org/events or by calling 541-1770.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
While that alone should motivate you to go vote, the most important part of a school district is the students. There are 35,000 children enrolled in the Buffalo School District. They are the future of Buffalo, and the City is a driving force in the future success or failure of Western New York. What does it mean for our region when 35% of Buffalo School District students don’t graduate with a high school diploma? What does it mean that nearly two-thirds of Buffalo adults are functionally illiterate? How much worse will things get if and when 700 teachers are laid off (increasing class sizes) due to the ridiculous demands of special interests, demands that have driven the District into a financial crisis? How can we reverse these trends when special interests are more focused on lining their pockets than providing for the only special interest that matters… the students!
If you think it’s acceptable that adults in Buffalo cannot read well enough to get anything other than an entry level job, by all means, stay home on May 4th. If you are ok with 35% of our area’s children not having a high school diploma, don’t vote. If you think this downward spiral MUST end, consider the following candidates:
(Don’t know what district you live in? Check here: http://elections.erie.gov/precinctfinder.aspx)
North District: Jason McCarthy
McCarthy is probably best known for his involvement is the creation of the off-leash dog park at Lasalle Park, better known as “Barkyard”. McCarthy worked through many bureaucratic issues during the formation of Barkyard, and was recognized for his efforts with Business First’s 40-under-40 award. McCarthy understands that a high quality education system is an important part of improving the City’s quality of life. McCarthy has a reputation of being able to work with all sides to get a job done, and improving our children’s education is a top priority.
East District: Vivian Evans
Evans is the incumbent and has supported high school reform in her capacity as a school board member. She has also assisted schools throughout New York State implement parent involvement programs and works directly with parents and young children through Parents for Quality Education, Inc. During her time as a school board member, Evans has constantly stood up to special interests that do not serve the best interests of the students. She has dedicated her career to students, and will continue to fight for what is best for them, including public school reform and improved education practices.
Ferry District: Rev. Kinzer Pointer
Rev. Pointer is a coordinator at Enterprise Charter School and an associate pastor at Pilgrim Baptist Church. Rev. Pointer has stressed the need for a resolution to stalled labor talks, and is the past president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. Pointer has long been an advocate for the students, as a past member of the Board he fought for many of the reforms we are still waiting for today, and would continue that fight upon his return.
West District: Phil Lomax
Lomax is a parent with school aged children and knows the concerns of parents who entrust their children to an educational system that is fundamentally flawed. As a volunteer coach at the Willard Pratt Community Center, Phil has constant interaction with children living in the District. He witnesses the challenges that confront teenagers in our community and understands the dangers that await children who are not engaged in the classroom. Lomax will work to ensure all teachers receive greater professional development support, students feel safe when they are in the classroom and education spending is spent in the classroom, rather than administration costs.
Central District: Mary R. Kapsiak
Kapsiak is a retired Buffalo teacher and administrator whose time on the Board has been spent fighting for to keep the interests of the students as the Board’s number one priority. She has been recognized by numerous community and educational organizations for her leadership in promoting proper educational practices and will continue to stand for the best interests of the students.
These candidates all stand for a reform agenda that includes addressing the major flaws in the district’s contract negotiation process and removing the roadblocks to school choice in the City of Buffalo. They represent an effort to bring back the idea that education is about the children and their future. We need reform-minded school board members who aren't beholden to one group's interests, unless that one group is the students. The above candidates address that need, and are committed to reform our schools and the education they provide.
If you have any questions about the races or what you need to do in order to vote, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to donate to any of the candidate’s campaigns to assist them in making that final push, I can facilitate that as well. Above all else, be sure to vote on Tuesday, and tell your friends and family in the City to do the same. The old adage “every vote counts” truly resonates when 5-10 votes easily could decide who runs this billion dollar corporation funded by tax-payer dollars and has the biggest impact on our children’s future.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Keynote Brian Quirke from the US Department of Energy’s presentation talked to the transformative nature of the current energy landscape. While the conversation was unable to anticipate which grants will follow the recovery program or which programs are next in the docket, he did say that there are aggressive energy goals for the coming years with the administration looking for 20% of US energy to come from renewable sources. He also warned that there may be a more punitive approach to address global warming.
Panelists David Flynn from Phillips Lytle, Christina Orsi from Empire State Development, and David Reading from HSBC completed the rest of the story from the planning, grant and state assistance, and private funding piece of the puzzle.
We will continue to cover wind and other renewable energy sources in blog postings to come. Please let us know what other types of information in the renewable sector would be helpful to you and your business.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
While we are counting this vote as a victory, the Partnership will continue to monitor and advocate in opposition to any legislation that threatens Buffalo Niagara's agribusiness industry.
Monday, April 19, 2010
As an entrepreneur growing her business here in our region, she has dealt with many obstacles since the company’s beginning in 2006. “Since Expedient Trade services are so niche, it is difficult to run the business depending solely on acquiring WNY clientele. National customers and strategic partners are needed for financial stability. This does require more man power and time.” Many businesses in our area face the same kind of problems. Can a company here in WNY grow and maintain large national and even international customers and clients? We believe the answer is absolutely.
Many people are filled with the passion and commitment that successful entrepreneurs need to achieve their visions. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to put together a creative idea and how to execute it properly. As an entrepreneur, the benefits can defiantly outweigh the costs. Being your own boss and making your own rules is always a perk but you also assume all the risk. Sometimes, as Ms. Bonn suggests, help is needed.
This Wednesday April 21st we’re hosting Buffalo Means Business: A Showcase for Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs & Social Innovators. The event is for those currently thinking about starting a business one day, who already are entrepreneurs, or who want to learn how to support our local business community. Come learn from “entrepreneurial storytellers” Michelle Bonn and Trace George from VSP Marketing Graphic Group about their experiences starting a business. Listen to “social entrepreneurs” Denine King, McCullagh Coffee; Anthony Armstrong, Urban Roots; and Amy Kedron, Buffalo First! talk about ways to support local businesses. And, network with representatives from local business resource providers who will be on hand to talk about their services.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I spent the last two days in Washington as part of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition lobbying visit. This year, with our partner chambers from throughout the Great Lakes region (over 30 of them), we continued our emphasis of the importance of federal attention on the Great Lakes, we updated them with our 2010 Agenda for Jobs and Economic Transformation in the Great Lakes Region, and we confirmed the recognition of our chambers working together as a coalition. In all, we met with over 30 reps (or their staffs) from the Great Lakes region.
A key component of the messaging was going into meetings with coalition members from other states. I had the opportunity to visit with Congressional reps from Iowa and Kentucky, and was joined by colleagues from Detroit and Cleveland as I visited with our reps. It sent a strong message: we're all in this together.
The 2010 agenda is very much the same as the 2009 version - I pointed out three changes in our meetings: (1) the coalition has grown - never before were we joined by Kentucky and Iowa, whose economies rely heavily upon trade corridors through the Great Lakes; (2) we've added one more topic area - federal policy for nuclear and clean coal energy; and (3) we have a logo on the cover! Very much in the same way that we branded "Unshackle Upstate" in our region, in order to be recognized as a mega-region, we need Washington to understand the validity of our effort.
Between our meetings with the various delegations, the U.S. Chamber and the Canadian Embassy - here are some insights that we received:
- Full re-authorization of SAFETEA-LU or its replacement program is likely not to happen in 2010. While most everyone in Washington will say they support investment in transportation infrastructure, no one's come up with a formula to pay for it. It is likely a user fee - possibly an increase in the gas tax - will be a heavily-discussed option, but in reality that debate won't happen before the elections.
- While NY's own Senator Schumer has taken on immigration reform, the will of Congress to address it is not gaining momentum. We were advised that it, as well, will not be moving this year - we were also advised that there is an advantage to that in that if it's not comprehensive reform, and instead piecemealed, it could end up being bad legislation for the business community. While we - particularly our manufacturers - understand the importance of attracting high-skilled talent (often educated here) to their companies, for many in Washington and across the country, "immigration reform" is synonymous with keeping people out.
- High-speed rail (HSR) was mentioned in nearly every meeting, so it seems to still be garnering a tremendous amount of attention in Washington. Lobbying side-by-side with chambers from the Midwest, it was easy to link the need for investment in HSR in New York to the potential of connecting to their project, which recently received $2.6 billion in stimulus funding for their project.
Obviously, there is great need for infrastructure funding and immigration reform (particularly related to high-skilled workers), so we will continue to push these items and bring the private sector perspective to the conversation. In addition, our coalition will continue to raise the volume of discussion surrounding the Great Lakes region's economy and resources and their importance to our country, North America and the world.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Independent Health is among the leaders in the debate on Health Care Reform. In the current Expert Forum, President and CEO Dr. Michael W. Cropp provides some insight into the debate, the impact the legislation will have both locally and nationally, and what Independent Health has done over the last few years to make health care more accessible to the residents of this community.
Read Dr. Cropp's latest message on The Expert Forum.
Another advocacy victory: Last summer, County Executive Chris Collins and the ECIDA proposed allowing the county's Industrial Land Development Corporation (ILDC) to do what the IDAs should have been able to do all along. The proposal was stifled by the Erie County Legislature and twisted to include prevailing wage provisions, making it useless (remember, prevailing wages raise the cost of projects in Upstate New York by 28%; consequently, IDA incentives reduce project costs by 10-15%). However, two weeks ago, the Erie County Legislature passed a measure that would allow the ILDC to waive the prevailing wage requirements injected by the Legislature last year. This is a huge economic development win for the taxpayers of Erie County, opening up plenty of opportunity.
Will it work? Well, other counties are following suit - Dutchess County (Poughkeepsie) will vote on a similar measure today after an 11-1 passage in committee.
We need to put people to work in New York State - that is the only way that we're going to stimulate the economy. Albany has before it a couple no-cost economic development programs (including IDAs/not-for-profits and the UB2020 bill), which continue to get held up by special interests. We're pleased that the County Executive and Erie County Legislature have moved forward on the not-for-profit bonding piece, and look forward to seeing some of these long-awaited projects getting started. We'd like to see Albany demonstrate an understanding the importance of job creation in Upstate New York, as well.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Click here for the Partnership's early take on healthcare reform.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
While we await the conclusion for state budget negotiations, a fire in which we have a number of irons, here are some great advocacy victories we're pleased to have achieved on behalf of the Buffalo Niagara business community:
- Yesterday, New York State agreed to stop enforcing a burdensome tax on IDA revenues that are intended to be used for economic development and job creation.
- Today, we learned that Damian Vanetti of S&W Redevelopment of North America, LLC in Syracuse, a representative of Unshackle Upstate's Brownfields Working Group, has been appointed to the state's Brownfield Advisory Board. The creation of the Advisory Board was a component of brownfields reform legislation championed by Unshackle Upstate, and passed by the state legislature in the Summer of 2008.
- In February, Canada and the U.S. reached an historic agreement allowing Canadian companies access to state and local public works projects associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which contains a "Buy American" provision. In exchange, U.S. companies have been given access similarly to sub-federal procurement in Canada. Given the importance of the trade relationship between the world's two largest trading partners - particularly in the Buffalo Niagara region - the Partnership supported this agreement during negotiation.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
From our perspective, the Governor is on the right track in recognizing a higher value in the delivery of economic development incentives on projects that have the highest potential for return-on-investment. Late in 2009, the six IDAs in Erie County agreed to implement a system of "tiered" incentives for distribution of economic development benefits - something for which the Partnership advocated for nearly a decade. "Tiered" incentives give preference to projects that the community - with input from all stakeholders: public and private sectors, labor, taxpayers, et. al. - have recognized as the best chances for success. They take into consideration factors such as inclusion in target industry sectors, compliance with regional planning, "green" construction and operations, job creation numbers, private investment and "buy local." In other words - if you're doing the type of project that Erie County wants (and needs), you'll get better incentives to do so. We'd like to see this emulated in economic development programs throughout the state.
Hopefully you'll find the Empire Zone information helpful. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us and we'll help hook you up with the right contacts at Empire State Development.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Last Year, Unshackle Upstate published a report highlighting salary and benefits disparity between public and private sector employees, and the issues highlighted by Attorney General Cuomo play a major part in the lack of equality of benefits. While only 20 percent of all private sector employees have a guaranteed defined-benefit pension from their employee, traditional pensions are the norm for public employees. Instead of a defined-contribution or 401k plan where the risk of investment is assumed by the employee, many public employees can retire at age 55 with a guaranteed income of at least 60 percent of their salary. While private sector employees face the danger of losing their nest egg due to Wall Street's instability, public employees are relying on those same private sector taxpayers to protect their public pensions!
One major problem Attorney General Cuomo is attacking is "payroll padding" or "pension spiking". In the New York State pension system, when an employee retires, their pension is determined by either their last 3 year's salary averaged, or, in some cases, their final year alone. Often, when an employee nears retirement age, they will increase their overtime significantly, which in turns "pads" their retirement. If merely 1 percent of 2009's pension costs were increased by payroll padding, it would cost taxpayers upwards of $500 million over a 20 year period. Unfortunately, we witness payroll padding all too often. If a public employee plays his or her cards right, they can end up receiving more in their pension than they ever did as a salaried employee!
Unfortunately, these costs are put on the shoulders of taxpayers and businesses in New York. With our state facing (as of today per Governor Paterson) a $9.2 billion deficit, Attorney General Cuomo's investigation is a welcome step towards providing some much needed relief to the taxpayers of our state. However, the biggest problem is that "payroll padding" is technically not illegal. There can be illegal activities to ensure a public employee gets his or her desired overtime, and the Attorney General addressed those practices in his press conference, but until our State Legislature is willing to close the loopholes that lead to this abuse of the state's pension system, New York's taxpayers will continue to suffer.
To read more about Attorney General Cuomo's press conference, click here and here.