In this Buffalo Rising story, we told you about an upcoming forum to be held by Mayor Byron Brown that would gather information for the Obama administration concerning Buffalo jobs and economic growth. Below are the findings of the City of Buffalo Jobs and Economic Development Forum Summary that Mayor Brown mailed last week.
1. From what have you heard about the President's Jobs Forum, what seems relevant to your community?
Business incentives and training money for green technology and jobs - Congress should make the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant an annually funded program. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Energy-Retrofits.wmv
Funding for digitizing medical records and bioinformatics - President Obama has made modernizing America's health care system one of his top priorities. The linchpin of reforms is digitizing medical records. The New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences in Buffalo, NY was one of the pioneers of this technology. The President should identify it as a national center for this technology and fund it accordingly. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Digitizing-Medical-Records.wmv
Updating aging urban infrastructure - More Federal dollars are needed for Buffalo's aging roads, sewers, historical structures, and electrical grid. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Reuse-Legacy-Buildings.wmv
2. What parts of your local economy are working or thriving? What businesses and sectors are expanding and hiring?
Community: Buffalo has a very strong and capable network of community organizations.
Education: We have a strong education system in Buffalo and our region.
Housing: We have affordable housing and a low cost of living.
Job Training: We have job-training resources available to the public. We also have a central employment training center.
Medical: We have strong medical research facilities. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus serves as an engine for economic growth within the city.
Neighborhood: The City of Buffalo contains several thriving neighborhood business districts that provide opportunity for small business development and job growth.
Other: Strong trade relationship with Canada, NY State's and the United States' largest trading partner.
Tourism: Our arts and culture are conduits for developing tourism. We promote our architectural and heritage tourism assets, and collaborate with the growing region of Southeastern Ontario / greater Toronto.
What businesses and sectors are expanding and hiring in Buffalo?
Environmental: Lead abatement projects are an opportunity for green industry jobs. Also, building materials can be reused and recycled on demolition or deconstruction projects. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Harvesting-the-Urban-Forest.wmv
Medical: Health care and life sciences opportunities at institutions located on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Kaleida Health and Catholic Health systems.
Logistics: Despite intensified border regulations and aging infrastructure (i.e. Peace Bridge), Buffalo continues to offer distinct advantages to shipping and logistics, including easy access to truck, rail and air; accessible location to the East Coast and trade corridors and availability of warehouse space.
Other: International trade, transportation / logistics, immigration services.
3. What parts of your local community are not working or thriving? What businesses and sectors have been hit the hardest? What are people struggling with the most?
· Automotive Industry
· Manufacturing Sector
· Small businesses - Lack of access to credit markets is hurting small businesses
· Transportation - High fuel costs is hurting our local economy. WNY has one of the most expensive gas markets in the U.S.
Struggling with the most:
· Individuals are struggling with high taxes, overwhelming credit card debt, and out of reach loans
· Ability to provide for themselves and their family (food, clothing, necessities)
· Rents too high
· Mortgage availability has been diminished
· Next generation of skilled workforce
4. What are the opportunities for growth in your community? What businesses and sectors seem poised to rebound? What do you see as the "jobs of the future"?
Education: Growth in institutions such as University of Buffalo, Buffalo State College, Canisius College, D'Youville College, Medaille College, Eire Community College, Daemen, Houghton, Trocaire and other educational centers.
Environmental: Federal projects can successfully recycle construction and demolition debris through implementation construction waste recycling pilot projects. Recently the City of Buffalo partnered with WasteCap Resource Solutions on a residential deconstruction project. WasteCap is a nonprofit organization that provides waste reduction and recycling assistance. WasteCap has a "Community Partner" network and other training and e-training mechanisms that can be utilized nationally. WasteCap's TRACE, on line documentation system is the first of its kind and was piloted in Buffalo, NY, and designed to track individual project results, the application can create a database of waste avoided as well as best practices. www.wastecap.org. Click the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Recycling-Demolition.wmv
Infrastructure: Buffalo is poised to be a major link in the Northeast corridor's high speed rail proposal. Buffalo could be the meeting point of new and improved rail services connecting Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and the NYC area to Niagara Falls and Southern Ontario with its population of 12.1 million people. High speed rail is an enormous engine of economic and community development for upstate New York.
Energy: Great opportunity for renewable energy suppliers - low-cost hydropower and existing manufacturing base in the region are tremendous attraction pieces for manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, etc.
Medical: Opportunities in healthcare, health and human services. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is a regional center for bioinformatics and a leader in developing technology that will meet President Obama's goal of portable, digitized medical records.
Tourism: Marketing of local tourism, both historical and cultural, including the underground rail road and the war of 1812. Buffalo played a in these significant events in U.S. History.
5. What are the obstacles to job creation in your community? What could make local businesses more likely to start hiring?
Education: Greater collaboration with universities and research centers.
Employment: We need better job training, education, vocational training, apprenticeships, and mentorships in industry. Special focus should be given to green industry jobs. Federally funded projects could require waste reuse and recycling by executive order of the President. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/1st-Source.wmv
Finance: There should be better access and availability to capital and increased incentives to invest in business. HUD's CDBG rules could be made far more implementation friendly and flexible.
Infrastructure: Upgrades to existing deteriorating infrastructure - Buffalo was the first city to have electric light infrastructure and some of its wiring still dates from that time. Buffalo's combined overflow sewer system should be replaced to reduce pollution to Lake Erie.
Medical: Healthcare reform would create jobs.
Border: Cross-border commerce is the life blood of Buffalo's economy. A free-flowing border is essential to the growth and sustainability of Buffalo's bi-national regional economy.
Environmental: Legislation like the Great Lakes Restoration Act will create "restoration economy". The restoration of damaged lands and waters and the revitalization of deteriorating com munity assets in Buffalo present multiple opportunities that can benefit businesses, create jobs, improve communities, wildlife, and water quality. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Restoration-Economy.wmv
6. What other ideas should the President consider?
· A comprehensive preventative healthcare plan/community exercise and nutrition program should be developed.
· We are in need of a national crime prevention program focusing on education and employment.
Education: Greater access to quality education and vocational training programs are needed.
Employment: Displaced worker retraining and additional funding for adult education programs should be a priority. More investment should be strategically directed to the 100 largest metro areas. Cites are the engines of national prosperity. Cities are where our economy happens.
· The 100 largest U.S. metro areas are on just 12% of the land area, but contain 65% of our population and generate 75% of our Gross Domestic Product.
· They include 68% of our jobs, 75% of graduate degree holders, and 81% of R&D employment.
· Seven in ten of the nation's top research universities are located in the 100 largest cities. Studies show that workers and companies in urban areas innovate at higher rates because of the concentration of human capital.
· And cities contain billions of dollars in existing critical assets and infrastructure that will not move -
Ports, roads, and rail systems
Housing stock and buildings
· Investing in these existing assets and the vitality of our cities yields a greater economic return than spending our money.
Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Story-Veterans-Rebuilding-Neighborhoods.wmv
Environmental: We should invest in renewable energy and offer incentives to businesses and homeowners for reducing pollution. Buffalo has an innovative small startup company that has developed a nontoxic garment cleaning chemical and industrial washing machine that reduces energy consumption by 42%. This wet clean technology is a superior alternative to Perchloroethylene (PERC). Cleaners who have converted in the last two years have each added one job. A small business revolving loan program could allow "mom and pop" dry cleaners to finance their switch to non-toxic and energy efficient equipment. If all dry cleaners and laundries converted in the US, this could create up to 90,000 new jobs. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Wetclean.wmv and http://www.concordwire.ca/products_wetclean.html
Family: Increased access to affordable eldercare and daycare.
· Income tax should be reduced.
· There should be a tax on energy consumption.
Infrastructure: Support a 6-year reauthorization of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
Border: Emphasis on Peace Bridge Expansion Project - worthwhile federal border crossing programs such as NEXUS (a joint Canada-United States program designed to let pre-approved, low-risk travelers cross the US-Canada border quickly) and Free and Secure Trade program or FAST ( initiative offers pre-authorized importers, carriers and drivers expedited clearance for eligible goods) are hampered by infrastructure issues at the bridge, which restricts them from reaching their ultimate goal of free-flowing traffic; in addition, U.S.-Canada border policy must better balance national security with economic vitality - particularly in border communities, and so as not to impede the trade relationship between the world's two largest trading partners; private sector must be involved in the border policy-making conversations.
Innovation: Increase federal allocations for basic and applied research in the public and private domains and provide matching funds for state programs; in addition, reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research Program for a 14-year period. The program is designed to provide funding for early-stage innovation ideas. Ideas that are promising but still too much of a risk for private investors. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Honeywell.wmv
Brownfields: Increase EPA brownfield revitalization funds, particularly to support Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA). The Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Grant Program, which is administered through NYS Department of State, was enacted to help expedite site remediation and reuse when several polluted sites are located close together in a centralized area. Buffalo has four active BOA's: South Buffalo BOA; Buffalo River Corridor BOA; Buffalo Harbor BOA; and Tonawanda Street Corridor BOA. Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Brownfield.wmv
Energy: Provide annual funding for the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program (originally funded as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act). Click on the following link: mms://video.ci.buffalo.ny.us/forum/Energy-Retrofits.wmv
Immigration: Establish federal policy that facilitates strategic international talent attraction, integration and retention. Often, facilitating visas for a small number of key professionals - often educated in the U.S. - can support hundreds of U.S. jobs through retaining innovation, in addition enhancing U.S. opportunities to compete globally.
7. Describe your event.
Mayor Brown's Jobs and Economic Growth Forum was held in the Buffalo Convention Center on Wednesday, December 9, 2009. At the beginning of the event we showed a video profiling successful development projects in Buffalo, which was designed to spur creative ideas.
Mayor Brown organized the forum in an effort to bring together representatives of large and small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, community- and faith-based organizations, organized labor, financial experts and the general public to discuss job creation and economic development issues facing Buffalo and Western New York.
The following three questions were posed to all of the forum participants:
1. What's working in Buffalo-Niagara region that might be useful to other places across the nation?
2. What specific barriers are stopping more growth; what could the White House do right now to help overcome them and grow more of what's working?
3. What other issues and ideas should the President consider?
The forum wanted participants to speak on behalf of themselves and their own personal experience. In turn, it was requested that they listen to the personal experience of others at the forum.
After checking in, the participants, based on how they designated their background (e.g., business owner/management; labor rep/union member; financial industry; economic development; academic/researcher/policy; non-profit advocate; citizen) were directed to pre-determined tables for the various groups established for the forum discussion.
Forty-five tables were assembled, with a maximum of seven participants per table. A total of 288 people registered to attend the event. One facilitator was assigned to each table, to lead the discussion. After twenty-minutes a reporter from each table transcribed the top ideas from each table. A sampling of top ideas were then announced to the entire forum and discussed. All table summaries were entered into laptops that night capturing the entire event's table summaries for all the questions.