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Regional business analysis: growing and growing

Buffalo Niagara Partnership

Scores of community leaders turned out Wednesday at Larkinville for a big-picture view of regional business. Buffalo Niagara Partnership President Dottie Gallagher-Cohen presented the organization’s annual report, highlighting accomplishments in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Among them were the development of an advocacy agenda for Upstate New York, expansion of the region’s young professionals program and being selected as one of seven regions involved in a national workforce development program.

Gallagher-Cohen says she was especially impressed with the power of the organization following a realignment of priorities and efforts.

“We have been growing and growing and growing, and involved in more and more and more, and it was just sort of, let’s take a step back and say, are we aligned properly to really support what we’re doing," she said. "So it was really just a management decision about let’s make sure we’re doing this right and how do we do it better.”

The report was generally positive, highlighting the building of coalitions to advocate for local employers, leading Say Yes Buffalo’s Business Council and summer internship program and raising $10 million in loan funding to support the Buffalo Building Reuse Project. Gallagher and other business leaders also praised the efforts of five major area banks in pledging $10 million to support redeveloping downtown Buffalo.

She credited much of the success in identifying the upstate-downstate difference to a new coalition focused on challenging the minimum wage increase. While the group was not fully successful in their campaign, representatives say it did ensure upstate wage increases were scaled down.

Gallagher-Cohen said one of the keys to success for Western and Upstate business over the last year has been an understanding of the difference between upstate and downstate economies.

“What we’re seeing with the parody in transportation funding and the different scales on minimum wage kind of show that," she said. "The unfortunate reality is, though, we have to reduce the cost of doing business here in New York State to be competitive with other states and we haven’t made any real meaningful difference and, in fact, that’s sort of taken a step backwards this year.”

Gallagher-Cohen said three barriers to the progress of regional business remain in the coming fiscal year.

“One is our state, sort of regulatory and tax environment. But we can’t do that alone," she said. "The second is this regional workforce issue - how do we have the people that we need to grow the economy? And the third is really dealing with racial equity in our region. We have a lot of poverty and people who need work who have not received, unfortunately, sufficient training or have sufficient support to enter the labor force in a meaningful way.”

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.