Letter to the Editor by Ken Schmidt:
I'm writing because I am currently in the process of moving from the suburbs to the Elmwood Village and took a trip over the border the other night to buy furniture at IKEA in Burlington, Ontario. Normally, I would've ordered the furniture online and had it shipped to me, but IKEA uses their own shipping trucks, and delivery alone would've cost me $350. I spent some extra time wandering through the store and was very impressed overall with the layout and customer service, and even grabbed a quick bite to eat in their cafeteria. I headed home wondering about the store locations around Buffalo in the US, and discovered that the only two stores in New York are both on Long Island, with the closest store to Buffalo being Pittsburgh.
Here's my question: Why doesn't the city at least proposition IKEA about putting a store in Buffalo? I know that Buffalonians are a bit jaded when it comes to courting large retailers (see: Pro, Bass), but I think it couldn't hurt to at least float an offer to the Swedes. The prices on furniture at IKEA are some of the best I've seen in my comparison shopping, and between college students going away to school and the near 50,000 (estimated) that attend college in Buffalo, I think they'd have a market here. Plus, I'm sure some of the folks both in and out of college in Rochester and Syracuse would at least think twice about taking a trip down I-90 to do a bit of shopping too.
I was thinking about what it would take to persuade the building of a store in Buffalo on the way home when I realized that our Governor "gave" us a cool 1 billion dollars to help with just such a job! That's when I decided to to see if anyone had heard any news about any of this money being put to use, and I Googled the initial press release to find that the Governor made his announcement of this plan over six months ago. Six months ago! I would certainly hope The City is at least in talks with some outside businesses to spend this money, as I don't think it collects interest if we leave it alone.
If The City has been spending this money and there hasn't been any press about it, then I'll gladly be the first in line to shake the hand of whomever has gotten the ball rolling with spending it. Right now, however, it seems like we're letting one of the biggest tools for economic growth in this region go to waste. One IKEA store is a massive operation, so I think the stipulation that the money must be used to create jobs for the region would be met, and I think we could find a quality parcel of land in North or South Buffalo near one of the thruways to facilitate people driving into the city from outside of WNY to shop. Maybe I'm looking at this with a bias after being impressed by the store, but for the time being I think we should at least be casting as wide a net as possible to see what, if any, fish we can catch for this region. Although after the Bass Pro fallout, maybe I shouldn't use fishing analogies when pitching the idea.