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Assembly Holds Hearing on Upstate Economy

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Top State Assembly members heard from Buffalo Niagara business and economic development leaders about the area's economy Monday.

The Assembly is holding a series of hearings to find ways to improve the upstate economy. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Tonawanda is chairing the hearings. The first one held in Buffalo. Schimminger began the hearing by reciting the area's lagging employment numbers and wage rates and a declining population.

"In fact Erie County had the dubious distinction of ranking tenth among the 3,141 counties in the U.S. in terms of population loss during the 1990s, he said."

Empire State Development's vice president and regional director Luke Rich testified at the hearing. He says more government jobs must be reduced to help the area's economy.

"We have a reputation for being a region with too much government, and the business community is well aware of it. The efforts of County Executive Giambra to encourage consolidation of government bureaucracy along with the Governor's efforts to cut red tape are also being noticed," Rich said. "The reduction of government jobs during a recession is a clear indication of the commitment to improve competitiveness."

Key Bank regional president Marsha Henderson also testified. She had a wish list for state lawmakers. She requested more funding for the University at Buffalo's Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and wants brownfield redevelopment in Buffalo.

"I sometimes wonder how we can ask the City of Buffalo to become fiscally stable, when we keep its hands tied in terms of developing the land that's available," she said.

Others testifying also requested more work force development training dollars for the area. Similar hearings will also be held in Rochester, Utica and Syracuse.