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Progress Report on Buffalo Niagara Now

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Buffalo Niagara Partnership says it is gaining some ground in improving the region's competitiveness. Tuesday, the Partnership delivered an update on Buffalo Niagara Now -- nine initiatives launched two years ago.

Buffalo Niagara Now offers remedies to improve the region's competitiveness and create private sector jobs and new investment. Partnership President Andrew Rudnick says two initiatives are now in the final stages. An agreement is nearing to offer low cost hydropower to companies seeking to expand or build in the region. Rudnick says recently development leaders were able to provide an unidentified firm, owned internationally, with low-cost hydro-power to expand locally.

"We had a real, live prospect case to see whether that system can work," Rudnick said. "The short answer is we generated a proposal for that prospect of two-and-half-cents per kilowatt of hydro-power, while the objective of this was three-cents per kilowatt."

Also nearing completion is a Coordinated Local Development Process -- an effort to make the region's industrial development agencies a customer friendly network. Randall Clark, chair of Dunn Tire, is heading up this effort. He says recently the IDAs were able to quickly provide a proposal to Boeing. The airplane manufacturer is looking to construct a new plant and Niagara Falls is a potential site.

"In 48 hours, there was a professional package on Boeing's desk," Clark said. "You couldn't have done that in this community three years ago. It would have taken 48 days."

But efforts efforts to streamline the City of Buffalo's permit process are slow. Rudnick says it's an uphill battle against an "old culture" at City Hall. And he says while there's been a great deal of activity to reduce local property taxes, the impact has not yet been felt.

However, the Partnership says it has completed its Bioinformatics initiative. UB Provost, Elizabeth Capaldi cautions they are still working to recruit the scientists and staff to carrying out the research at the Center of Excellence.