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2017 business priorities unveiled by Buffalo Niagara Partnership

Visit Buffalo Niagara

It's that time of the year for the advocacy agenda from a phalanx of local governments and businesses, working with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

It is an annual event, the joint shopping list to Albany and Washington and sometimes Ottawa of projects considered really important to this region when politicians ask, What are you interested in having us build or pay for?

Some projects are on the list for years, like the continuing push for changing the Workers Compensation system because of its costs to business.

Some have local angles to them, like asking Washington and Albany to speed travel on border bridges, while asking Erie County to stop taking most of the revenue from the hotel bed tax and instead put it into tourism promotion.

Hart Hotels President and CEO Dave Hart says he is in favor of that.

"Every dollar allocated for their tourism promotion efforts generates $34 in economic impact, 34:1 return," Hart said. "In increasing the allocation of funding for VBN, we have the opportunity to fill the empty beds, increase the turnstile count at many venues."

Hart said the county collects around $11 million in bed tax and passes about a third of that along to Visit Buffalo Niagara and keeps the rest. Just putting the VBN share back where it was in 2000 would raise that to $5.5 million.

The agenda also pushes a series of transportation initiatives and more independence for the University at Buffalo so it can help the local economy.

"UB is a tremendous economic driver and we support reforms that will allow them to do more flexibly what we know they can do and really, really drive the community economically," said Partnership President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen.

Credit WBFO File Photo

The agenda also backs two proposed Metro Rail extensions, plus a Niagara Falls plan for a traffic roundabout on what is now called the Niagara Scenic Parkway between the Grand Island Bridge and downtown Niagara Falls.

"It's located in the general vicinity of the Power Authority intakes and those are very difficult to miss," said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. "By the way, one of the benefits of having an interchange there is that it would allow access from Hyde Park Boulevard to the river shore, which would itself vastly improve access to the park that's now been installed at the water intakes by New York Power Authority."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.