Regional agenda highlights two top Niagara County concerns
by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County lawmakers are hailing several key items in the Buffalo Niagara Partnership's 2015 regional agenda, rolled out Thursday night at a standing-room only press conference overlooking Downtown Buffalo's Coca-Cola Field.
Top priorities for the regional business advocacy group are extension of the Brownfield Cleanup Program, a longstanding state program put on ice when Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed it last month, and support for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station against federal base closure efforts.
"The Niagara Falls Air Base has always been a top concern for this County Legislature, and the longstanding and significant financial support we have provided to efforts like the Niagara Military Affairs Commission, or NIMAC, show our commitment," Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said in remarks following the partnership's regional agenda rollout.
"We're glad that the partnership is working with us to protect the 3,000 jobs - held by citizens of Niagara and Erie counties - at the air base," Ross said.
That's the stance county lawmakers have taken as successive Obama administration defense secretaries have announced plans to reduce and restructure U.S. military forces.
The vice chairman of the Legislature's economic development committee concurred.
"When you consider that economic statistics show the Niagara Falls Air Base has a $200 million impact on the local economy, this must remain a top priority," said Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield. "Every one of the 3,000 men and women that work at the base represents a family that relies on that base for their livelihoods: their homes, their cars, their kids' college educations. We're glad the partnership is joining us in fighting for them."
Lance noted that, in addition to funding provided to NIMAC, the Legislature had also secured the services of the Arlington, Virginia-based Principi Group, a consulting firm headed by former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi.
The Brownfield program has been a major concern for county lawmakers, particularly since Cuomo vetoed its extension Dec. 29. Partnership officials noted during the regional agenda rollout that, for every dollar in tax credits provided under the program, $10 in private investment has followed.
Other top priorities identified by the partnership were support for Liquefied Natural Gas storage, support for a regional workforce advancement center and Buffalo Manufacturing Works, enhancement of the Peace Bridge cargo pre-inspection program, acquisition and reconstruction of the Bethlehem Steel site, and backing U.S. Department of Labor efforts to transition from the Workforce Investment Act to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Locally, the partnership called on federal and state leaders to provide funding to construct a breakwater at Olcott Harbor to allow for future harbor development.
Other local priorities identified included obtaining funding to devise a comprehensive marketing strategy for the Niagara Falls International Airport, to restore Lockport's Flight of Five canal locks, as well as the renovation and improvements at Lockport's Historic Palace Theatre and North Tonawanda's Riviera Theatre.