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To ECC Board of Trustees: The 2007 plan was the right plan.

Bernice Radle, chair of Young Citizens for ECC, today made her case to shift the college’s allied health programs to downtown Buffalo directly to the ECC Board of Trustees. The young professionals advocacy group, formed in April in response to ECC’s plan to build a $30 million Health Sciences Center for Excellence in Amherst, is keeping the heat on high.

Radle’s pitch to the Board of Trustees comes after her group’s successful effort to convince members of Western New York’s state delegation to support a change in ECC’s plans. Young Citizens for ECC points to the college’s 2007 proposal, which would have consolidated ECC’s allied health programs to its City Campus, as an inspiration for shifting gears on the $30 million project.

Bringing ECC’s Health Sciences Center for Excellence to the transit-accessible City Campus, rather than its “isolated” suburban campus, says Radle, couldn’t be better timed alongside the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Here’s a transcript of Radle’s remarks:

Hello, my name is Bernice Radle. I am here to speak on behalf of Young Citizens for ECC, an organization of young professionals dedicated to the future of Erie Community College. It is in the true spirit of collaboration that I address you today on behalf of my colleagues.

I am here today to suggest a proposal, but not one that is original to Young Citizens for ECC. In 2007 the ECC Board of Trustees put forward a plan to relocate the college’s allied health programs to the City Campus.

The 2007 plan was the right plan.

The 2007 plan is even more relevant today than it was four years ago. Since then more than 3,000 new jobs have been created at the medical campus with another 2,000 are on the way. If ECC is to become more competitive, it must become a direct participant in the development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

ECC was the first to embrace this approach before setting it aside. In fact, ECC’s 2007 plan to relocate its allied health programs to the City Campus was introduced long before the UB Medical School and Health Sciences Charter School were slated to move downtown. It was ECC in 2007 that introduced a progressive, forward-thinking plan to link students directly to the job, internship, and networking opportunities of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

We believe it is time to pick back up that banner, and do what’s right for the region and our young people.

A plaque in the office of County Executive Chris Collins reads, “In God we trust, all others bring data.” In that spirit we offer the following datum points to support ECC’s original 2007 plan to bring its allied health programs to the City Campus:

    * ECC’s mission statement suggests the college “strives toward a future where education is accessible and convenient to all.” The City Campus is the most convenient and accessible campus in Western New York by car or by transit, with direct linkages to the Metro Rail, 35 bus routes, three major highways, an intercity bus hub, and 32,730 parking spaces. While the City Campus is more accessible to Southtowns motorists than the North Campus is, transit access at the City Campus is an especially important consideration for City of Buffalo households, 31.4% of which do not have access to an automobile. The place to build is the City Campus.

    * ECC is under-prepared for the huge demographic shift represented by the Millennial generation, the cohort born between 1986 and 1995. RCLCo, a leading real estate market research firm, recently conducted a national survey revealing a staggering 88% of the people of this generation prefers to work and live in urban environments. This makes the Millennials the most urban generation since at least before World War II. To remain competitive ECC must prepare for this major generational shift. The place to build is the City Campus.

    * The Brookings Institute reports the City of Buffalo is falling behind regional gains in associates degree attainment, with a share of the City population with associates degrees at 8.4% in 2009 compared to an MSA share of 10.7%. Young Citizens for ECC would like to inspire the Board of Trustees to bridge this gap in associates degree attainment by investing where the need is the greatest – at its City Campus. If this gap were bridged, and the City’s associates degree attainment achieved parity with that of the MSA, the return on investment would be staggering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the annual median earnings in 2009 for an associate degree holder is $7,020 more than for a high school graduate. Increasing the City’s share of associates degree holders from 8.4% to 10.7%, therefore, would result in an additional $28,606,500 in new income being generated in Buffalo every year. The place to build is the City Campus.

    * The American Association of Community Colleges reports more than 50% of all health sciences workers in the United States receive their training at community colleges. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is and will continue to be the source of the vast majority of the region’s new health sciences jobs. Does it continue to make sense to locate most nursing spots and all dental hygiene, dental assisting, health information technology, medical office assistant, ophthalmic dispensing, respiratory care, dietetic technology, and bio-manufacturing spots at ECC’s North Campus rather than at the doorstep of this growth engine in downtown Buffalo? Keeping ECC’s allied health programs in Amherst does not help grow the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The place to build is the City Campus.

Establishing a stronger relationship between ECC and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will be vital to making the region’s health sciences sector more competitive while ensuring an equal sharing of its blessings. To increase access to a quality education, bridge the degree attainment gap, and prepare the region’s young people for the jobs of tomorrow, ECC must refocus its allied health programs to its transit-friendly City Campus, not at its car-dependent location miles away from job and internship linkages.

This opportunity must be seized. We believe refocusing ECC’s proposed $30 million Health Sciences Center for Excellence to downtown Buffalo can generate the buy-in and consensus needed to move this project forward. ECC’s 2007 plan is the most realistic, achievable, and inspiring. It can be done, and we’d glad to support it.

Young Citizens for ECC believes the potential of the City Campus to re-brand the college and attract top talent is vast and largely untapped. People want to be back in urban settings. The momentum is moving cityward. Let’s get it right. The place to build is the City Campus.

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