The new chairwoman of the Niagara County Legislature's Economic Development Committee launched into her new role Tuesday night, laying an ambitious, 13-point agenda for economic development policy in the county.
Legislator Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield, a first-term lawmaker who was named to the Economic Development Committee post after one year as vice chair of the committee, touched on everything from high-tech jobs to Niagara County's longest-established industry, agriculture.
Lance challenged the Niagara County Economic Development Department and the extra-governmental Niagara County Industrial Development Agency to "work to expand programs as well as branch out into new programs and initiatives that enhance overall economic development efforts."
Since taking office, Lance has consistently pushed for policies that expand use of the Niagara Falls International Airport, parts of which are in her district. Lance indicated that ranking high among economic development goals in 2013 will be development of tourism packages for the NFIA, as well as marketing an adjacent parcel of land, the Niagara Airport Commercial Park, for a high-tech, air cargo, or logistics role.
Lance also stressed the importance of the Niagara Frontier's proximity to Canada's "Golden Horseshoe" that extends from the Greater Toronto Area to Niagara Falls and Welland.
"The Greater Toronto Area is a key spot in which to market Niagara County's strengths," Lance told colleagues. "All major Canadian cities along Lake Ontario will be targeted in 2013 marketing efforts."
Lance noted that cross-border traffic in the Buffalo-Niagara region has an estimated total trade value of $81 billion in combined exports and imports.
"The NCIDA will expand its presence at trade shows in the U.S. and Canada," Lance said. "(NCIDA) will partner with Canadian manufacturing associations and ... join the Bi-National Alliance to promote Niagara County throughout Canada."
The economic development chairwoman also directed Economic Development Commissioner Sam Ferraro to continue a course that has seen some success for Niagara County: marketing sites as "shovel ready." The marketing efforts, which include New York state's Empire Development Corp. declaring a building site to be "certified shovel ready" after certain preliminary site development, paperwork and red-tape hurdles are cleared, have positioned parcels in the town of Cambria and adjacent to the Niagara Falls airport for rapid development.
"These sites will be aggressively marketed with a focus on high-tech and advanced manufacturing options," Lance instructed, before telling Ferraro to add to their number by pursuing designation of additional New York state-certified shovel ready sites in 2013.
Lance also set Economic Development Department policy of continuing to seek grants from the Environment Protection Agency for cleanup of brownfields sites around Niagara County, and broke news that the EPA intends to award Niagara County another $180,000 for this purpose in 2013.
The cleanups benefit both the environment and the economy of the county, Lance noted. "The goal of the Niagara County Brownfields Program is to continue returning tax-delinquent brownfield properties to the tax rolls and back into productive use," Lance explained.
Lance also reiterated the importance of the county's Business Growth and Retention Program, which involves working closely with area employers to ensure that the county is setting a reasonable economic climate for their needs, as well as a $300,000 grant-funded effort to retain jobs at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.