Logistics and Transportation Council tours NITTEC

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership plays a lead role in advocating for many issues that are critical to the economy and residents of Western New York.

Often times, issues can be divisive, falling along political lines or fronted with the disparate needs between upstate and downstate. However, when it comes to transportation infrastructure, the issue is met with near universal concern.

NITTEC tour

Logistics and Transportation Council tours NITTEC

According to the 2015 TRIP Report, more than one third of New York State’s roadways are in poor condition.

Nearly 40 percent of our bridges are rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Transportation infrastructure is the functional backbone of New York State, responsible for moving people, goods and commerce.

The resources currently allocated to transportation infrastructure are insufficient for routine preservation, much less for true investment and improvement to our State.

How can we expect to grow when our bones are barely held together?

On Thursday, May 14, Buffalo Niagara Partnership members had the opportunity to sit down with one of the region’s leading transportation advocates, New York State Senator Tim Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy, representing parts of the City of Buffalo, Lackawanna, Cheektowaga and West Seneca, sits on the NYS Senate’s transportation committee.

At the event, the Senator stressed the importance of investing in our infrastructure and defining a future in which we are growing our state as a place to live and do business.

NITTEC traffic 3However, improving our network is not as easy as raising additional funds.

New York is already one of the most heavily taxed and most expensive states in the nation.

The proposition of simply raising additional tax revenue is unrealistic and, potentially, irresponsible.

A smart first step, suggested by Senator Kennedy and long championed by the Partnership’s Logistics and Transportation Council, is to ensure that revenues collected by transportation (tolls, gas tax, etc.) are actually allocated for our infrastructure.

The Senator urged our organization to support the BRIDGE Act, a bill in Albany that aims to return funding to capital investment in our road and highway infrastructure for new improvements.

The bill has a companion legislation in both the Senate and the Assembly, and would be an important advancement in funding a better mobility network overall.

The Council’s discussion with the Senator was followed by a tour of the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition’s (NITTEC) Traffic Operations Center.

Attendees were exposed to some of the region’s most intelligent transportation resources, including their 24/7 headquarters that monitors the region’s traffic and provides real-time information to improve traffic flows and enhance emergency assistance.

NITTEC traffic 2Less time spent in congested traffic means less energy consumption, less air pollution and more reliable travel times for personal and business travel.

Whether a slowdown may be caused by severe weather, construction, a public event, or a traffic accident, information gathered in the Traffic Operations Center regarding transportation issues on the local highways is disseminated through this website.

For more information about our Logistics and Transportation Council, advocacy efforts and resources available throughout the region, please contact me.

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Opposing another hike in minimum wage

We strongly oppose yet another hike in New York State’s minimum wage. 

New York already pays one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country, with a scheduled increase to $9.00/hour set for the end of this year. Attempts to raise the minimum wage again – to levels that would put New York’s rate well above the vast majority for the country – will do nothing but further disadvantage our state which is already well known as a high-tax, overly regulated, and unfriendly place for business,” said our President & CEO, Dottie Gallagher-Cohen.

AdvocacyGraphics-05_06_15-72dpi14We spoke to numerous Partnership member companies who joined in support of our opposition of yet another hike in New York State’s minimum wage.

“As a nonprofit, we cannot sustain the higher minimum wage without reducing the number of people hired,” said a Partnership member company.

“New York State’s overall tax environment combined with wage increases makes doing business here very difficult,” said another Partnership member company.

“The majority of our membership is concerned that another increase will impact their ability to employ young and unskilled workers, force them to pass rising employee costs onto their customers, and continue to erode their competitiveness with businesses in other states,” shared Dottie Gallagher-Cohen.

AdvocacyGraphics-05_06_15-72dpi15We also oppose Governor Cuomo’s use of a Wage Board to establish a higher minimum wage for fast food workers.

The State Legislature should be setting minimum wage policy that will impact taxpayers and business owners throughout New York State.

Join us in voicing our opposition on this issue by joining the conversation on Twitter using #OpposeAnotherHike.

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2015 Energy Market update

As expected, 2015 has already provided some unexpected twists and turns within the energy markets that are sure to continue throughout the year.

However, before we explore forward market conditions, it helps to take a look back and benchmark some of the significant market events that still influence today’s prices.

The chart below has two fuel types (Natural Gas and Crude Oil) which heavily influence electric cost within New York state plotted against the NYISO Zone crA (Western NY) energy market rates.

Constellation expertise graph1The significant events that have impacted these energy curves are:

  1. April 2012: 10-year market low for both natural gas (~$2/MMBtu) and electric
  2. Polar Vortex: Nearly 2 months of pricing in which average market prices were above $100/MWh ($0.100/kWh)
  3. February/March 2015: Sustained cold and short term forecast contributed to a temporary jump in market prices
  4. Today: All are once again near their 10-year lows

To understand the impact of the current rates on the forward electric market, it helps to review the chart below which shows the average 24-Month Forward Electric rates over the past 5 years.

Constellation expertise graph2As in the chart above, April 2012 was the market low for a forward fixed 24-Month electric prices. You may also notice that it has a similar shape to the natural gas curve above.

So what does all this mean?

A significant portion of the electric generated in New York State is fueled by natural gas, and the expectation is that this will increase with additional coal-to-gas switching for our generation.

Natural gas is heavily influenced by demand, in particular, demand created by weather.

Since the Polar Vortex, this sensitivity has become more pronounced in the face of short-term weather forecasts in the winter months as shown in the first chart.

Current rates are near the 10-year lows we saw in April 2012 as indicated in the second chart.

As the year progresses, general market anticipations are that the gas market will re-balance and prices will recover later this year, much as they did in 2012.

Beth Robers Russell headshot

Beth Roberts-Russell

The potential for additional downward movement will be much less than the potential for upward movement, so now may be an advantageous time to fix a load following price by considering a fixed price or at a fixed energy block.

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About the author: Beth Roberts-Russell is a Senior Business Development Manager at Constellation Energy, who specializes in helping customers navigate the challenges of electricity costs and price risk, helping them find the best solutions to meet their business goals. With more than eleven years’ experience in the New York power market, Beth is passionate about putting her expertise to work and helping locally owned and regional as well as state-wide companies,  find the best options to fulfill their business needs.

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Utility Consumer Advocate Is a Deceiving Proposal

Some state lawmakers are pushing legislation to create the State Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.

On the surface, who could object to having an advocate in place to represent the interests of residential utility customers across New York State?

But when you get past the deceiving name attached to this proposal, you quickly realize the office will produce no tangible benefit for utility customers and, instead, only add to the already bloated bureaucracy of New York State government.

As a result, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership opposes this legislation (S.3356/A.180).

[Credit: blog.check.me]

[Credit: blog.check.me]

Appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, the Utility Consumer Advocate would duplicate the work and responsibilities of already existing offices charged with protecting New York’s consumers.

The intended mission of the Utility Consumer Advocate would directly overlap with the current mission of the Public Service Commission and its offices of Consumer Policy and Consumer Services, as well as the Department of State’s Utility Intervention Unit and the Office of New York State Attorney General.

State dollars also already pay for the operations of the Public Utility Law Project (PULP), a non-profit organization that has been advocating for customer protection for New York State utility consumers since 1981.

Most troubling, this bill would specifically prohibit the Utility Consumer Advocate from working to protect utility consumers from state-imposed taxes, fees and surcharges frequently added to utility bills.

These additional costs, mandated by New York, are routinely passed on to consumers with little to no information or advance notice.

The State’s heavy reliance on this fiscal gimmick is a leading reason why New York consumers pay some of the highest utility rates in the country.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership encourages Legislators supporting this bill to redirect their attention to address the root cause of New York’s high utility taxes, fees and surcharges in an attempt to actually lower utility bills for consumers in New York State.

Unshackle Upstate and the Business Council of New York State also oppose this legislation.

The Partnership will continue to track this bill and advocate against its passage as the State Legislature begins its final weeks of session.

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2015 Manufacturing Day & Manufacturing Awards

May 5 was a busy day for the manufacturing industry, as it featured two important events: the Manufacturing Alliance of New York’s Manufacturing Day in Albany and Business First’s 2015 Manufacturing Awards.

Both events turned out to be a great success for WNY manufacturers and our Partnership manufacturing members.

Albany-Capitol-BuildingAt Manufacturing Day in Albany, I represented the Manufacturers’ Council on behalf of the Partnership.

Our coalition was made up of industry leaders from across the state.

We met with several state legislators and industry experts to express the needs of manufacturers throughout New York.

Throughout the course of the day, we met with five legislators (who were chosen due to their relevant committee assignments,) including:

  • Senator George Amedore
  • Senator Rich Funke
  • Senator Thomas O’Mara
  • Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer
  • Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski

We discussed workforce issues and how we can address the growing skills gap and worker shortages that currently exist.

Overall, Manufacturing Day was a success and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the Manufacturers Alliance of New York to advocate to address our members’ needs.

However, it wasn’t just our Manufacturing Day efforts in Albany that were successful last week.

Partnership members had a tremendous turnout and were well represented at the 2015 Manufacturing Awards, taking home 13 of the 22 awards overall.

Congratulations to the following Partnership members who received awards:

  • Sealing Devices (General Excellence)
  • McGard LLC (General Excellence)
  • J.M. Smucker/Big Heart Pet Brands (Sustainability)
  • Boston Valley Terra Cotta (Sustainability)
  • Rigidized Metals Corp. (Family-Run Manufacturing)
  • Eastman Machine Co. (Family-Run Manufacturing)
  • Harmac Medical Products Inc. (Community Involvement)
  • Dynabrade Inc. (Exporting)
  • TRS Packaging/TMP Technologies (Operational Excellence)
  • Staub Machine Co. Inc. (Operational Excellence)
  • General Motors Tonawanda Engine (Operational Excellence)
  • Power Drives Inc. (Dream It, Do It)
  • STI-CO Industries Inc. (Innovation)

It is clear to see that when manufacturing excels in Western New York, the entire community benefits.

I look forward to continued success in the efforts of our expanded Manufacturers’ Council.

If you are interested in joining or sponsoring the council, please contact your Member Services Representative.

To learn more about the council and it’s benefits, read our blog detailing 5 reasons to join the council.

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Transportation investment crucial for Riverbend’s success

The Riverbend development, at the former Republic Steel site in South Buffalo, is a transformative project for Buffalo and Western New York.

SolarCity has committed to investing $5 billion over the next decade on a solar panel manufacturing facility expected to generate 3,000 jobs. New York State has also committed $750 million to the project.

In anticipation of this major project, and the significant infrastructure resources it will require, the Partnership engaged in a broader investigation into planned and potential growth in the areas surrounding Riverbend.

We conducted the Riverbend Area Infrastructure Needs Assessment (RAINA), a direct engagement with neighboring businesses and developers, to determine the amount of expected growth over the next five years.

riverbend mapOur survey showed more than six million square feet of planned development in the near future, representing a 191 percent overall growth for the area.

However, the influx of new employees and commercial traffic will put more strain upon the aging and limited transportation infrastructure in the area.

The area around Riverbend contains active industrial and residential areas, further complicating concerns.

Considering this area hasn’t seen this much vehicle movement since the days of Republic Steel, it is necessary to consider a holistic future for transportation infrastructure needs.

In order to facilitate the smooth movement of people and commerce around the area, as well as prepare to accommodate future growth, the roadway infrastructure around Riverbend will need to be improved and upgraded.

However, transportation funding from the state and federal government is often times an issue. Infrastructure has been neglected in not only WNY, but statewide.

Just 53 percent of roads in the Buffalo area were rated as good in a March 2015 study conducted by transportation research group, TRIP. TRIP also found 32 percent of roads in the region were either in mediocre or poor condition.

TRIP estimates these poor road conditions cost Buffalo drivers an additional $294 a year in maintenance costs.

Public transportation can provide a solution to potential traffic issues by providing reliable and accessible bus routes around the Riverbend area, which lies outside of the current Metro-Rail footprint.

However, Albany has failed to adequately fund the NFTA in recent years.

april 23 blog photo of carsIn 2014, the NFTA received $3.34 per rider mile in state support, while systems in Rochester and Syracuse received $4.50 and $5.76 per rider mile respectively.

The needs of the riders, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, should be considered in order to create safe and modern complete streets.

Given the many infrastructure needs of WNY, the region needs to be proactive in ensuring the Riverbend area obtains the necessary upgrades and maintenance.

A holistic approach that factors in passenger, freight and public transportation should be considered to address the unique needs of the various constituencies accessing the Riverbend area.

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Regional manufacturers weigh in on expanded council

If you haven’t heard, our Manufacturers’ Council is expanding!

Through the expansion, we are creating a larger and more diverse group of local manufacturers who want to make an impact on the manufacturing community in Western New York, and on the business community as a whole.

Members of our Manufacturers Council after April's meeting (from left to right): Susan Witt (Dream It, Do It Program Coordinator for Erie & Niagara Counties), Matthew Smith (Council Chair and Moog, Ops. Project Engineer, Commercial Aircraft Group), Barrett Erbe (Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Economic Development Associate) and Steve Davis (Tapecon, Vice President of Operations)

Manufacturers’ Council members (left to right): Susan Witt (Dream It, Do It Program Coordinator for Erie & Niagara Counties), Matthew Smith (Council Chair and Moog, Ops. Project Engineer), Barrett Erbe (Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Economic Development Associate) and Steve Davis (Tapecon, Vice President of Operations)

Participation in the council will provide Partnership members with:

  • a say in the Partnership’s advocacy issues
  • hands-on experience with our tour series
  • a forum for workforce development issues
  • many opportunities to build your network by attending our tour series and other manufacturing-related events

The Council Chair, Matt Smith, and Vice Chair, Adam Pratt,  have been involved in the Partnership for many years and their vision for the council is summed up by their testimonials below:

“The goal of the Manufacturers’ Council is simple, improve Western New York Manufacturing. The Manufacturers’ Council helps keep me informed as to what is going on in WNY manufacturing, gives me the opportunity to participate in trying to improve the local manufacturing community and brings key manufacturing people together to share ideas and best practices through the tour series and other events,” said Matt Smith, Manufacturers’ Council Chair, Moog.

“My participation on the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Manufacturers’ Council, has been helpful in growing and improving my business. The council works with, and is made up of, regional and global manufacturers providing the venue for learning best practices that can be implemented in my own company. I have also been able to develop relationships through the council that have created a network of professionals, that with one phone call, can help me with an issue in my business. I have also had the opportunity to work on programs like Dream It, Do It, which will make a real difference for our community,” said Adam Pratt, Manufacturers’ Council Vice Chair, Sherex Fastening Solutions.

ManfCounvilGraphic-04_27_14To get involved or for more information about the council’s activities, please contact me and I will be happy assist you.

Joining the Manufacturers’ Council is a great opportunity to impact the region’s increasingly important manufacturing industry!

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BN360 Spotlight Series: Education as an anchor or an elevator

Although Buffalo is on the rise, there is a heavy anchor that is holding back the potential of this resurgence: our public school system.

There is new evidence every day in construction and rehabilitations, new restaurants and business expansions. However, each year, our school system fails thousands of students, many of whom drop out or fail to graduate.

Even among those graduating, too many are not equipped with the skills needed to succeed in college or in a career.

Our school system does not need to be this way; a successful school system could be an elevator for our urban revival, pushing the city’s rebirth even further.

Not only would a thriving school system attract families back into the urban core (instead of pushing families further into the suburbs,) but an educated and talented population of young people would create the workforce and citizenry needed to continue to improve all sections of our city.

say yes logoHow can we, as a community, turn our education system from an anchor, holding back Buffalo’s growth, into an elevator for the rebirth?

Diverse stakeholders are doing many things, big and small.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, in a recent partnership with Say Yes to Education, is helping bring the business community together to expose students to countless new career paths by making meaningful internships and work-study experiences available to Buffalo students.

Community organizations and service providers are slowly coordinating to offer ‘wraparound’ services to an increasing number of students to combat the many out of school factors that students bring into the classroom.

Groups of parents, educators and citizens are coming together to start up charter schools (offering a growing number of quality and diverse educational options,) with different programs, curriculums, and areas of focus.

360SpotlightPros-HEADSHOTS8

BN360’s May Spotlight Professional: Jason Zwara

Finally, news coverage of the education system has been consistently growing and gives an unprecedented look inside Buffalo’s school system.

There are many ways to get involved but the first step, as with so many important issues, is to become informed.

Especially important for education in Buffalo, be sure to vote! School board elections historically have had extremely low turnout, which is extremely troubling for something so important to our community.

So get out there, get informed and get ready to vote when Board elections come around next May.

About the author: Jason Zwara is Buffalo Niagara 360’s May Spotlight Professional. Jason is the Executive Director for Buffalo ReformEd, a local education advocacy non-profit organization. Jason is an alumni of Canisius College, where he is the President of the Buffalo-Niagara alumni chapter.

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Why historic preservation is important

A Look Inside The Redevelopment Process

In Buffalo, our historic architecture speaks to the growth of our industries, the impact it has had on our residential stock, and the eventual fall from that perch.

The opportunity to resurrect that culture in a current time of growth and confidence in our city sets preservation as a top priority.

In order to find a balance between past and present structural importance, one must understand that preservation is an all-encompassing term that is improperly used for any project dealing with a building older than 25 years.

However, preservation projects can range anywhere from restoration to renovation to reconstruction type developments.

SAMSUNG CSC

Tishman exterior

Although it may seem simpler to design and implement new structures, redeveloping historic structures allows us to create a result that is both charming and unique.

Why is preservation important?

  • Economic incentives spur development of otherwise typically undevelopable buildings
  • Job creation and spin off investment
  • Further understanding of the lineage of a location or building and the impact on society
  • Opportunity for the architect to engage in a design that interacts with history
  • Opportunity to regain confidence in our city

When first approaching a historic preservation development, if it is identified as a possible project, it is critical to determine if it’s eligible for National Registry and therefore tax incentives.

It’s also important to consider how to make the project viable by inspecting the surroundings to determine what made the building deteriorate, deciding who should be the caretaker or developer of the building, and breaking down the building’s condition and character.

What are the greatest challenges of preservation?

  • Perception: negative stereotypes of the approach as one that prevents change and growth can be hard to overcome
  • Dependent on the project, problems could arise based on financing or the building’s stability
  • Architecturally speaking, it is difficult to establish a new paradigm in a building that was not designed for that purpose while maintaining a high level of preservation standards

What are the greatest outcomes?

  • Seeing a building left for demolition restored and brought back to operation
  • Seeing businesses thrive and the public enjoying the project

With the right team in place, you can likely find a solution that manages all interests and results in the project being created.

Steven Carmina headshot

Steven Carmina

The Historic Tax Credit programs at the State and Federal level are to thank for the restoration of major commercial buildings.

It is important to maintain these tax credits, as many historic projects are being completed by individuals who are investing without much help.

The passion and commitment that many have for preserving our region’s buildings is irreplaceable, and the rebirth of our city hinges on our ability to support these individuals.

To learn more about the Historic Preservation efforts throughout Buffalo, or to find out how you can get involved, visit The Preservation League of NYS or The Landmark Society of WNY.

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About the author: Steven Carmina is a Partner with Carmina Wood Morris DPC, an Architecture Engineering and Interior Design firm, and has been a Partnership member for two years. Steve’s experience spans more than thirty years of planning, design, and project implementation for a diverse range of projects. An AIA member, Steve is also an active board member of Buffalo Place, March of Dimes, Buffalo Hearing & Speech, and Traffic on Main Street.

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Partnership Affinity Programs: savings you can trust

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership has been working with select vendors in our region to help our members’ bottom line.

member benefit programsAt the core of our mission is the desire to work with community leaders, businesses and Partnership members to enable regional growth.

We want all of our members to prosper, and thus we have partnered with current members to bring you a number of affinity programs that will result in business savings and quality products and services.

What does this mean for your business?

We have negotiated partnerships with select companies to provide Partnership members with instant savings in the following disciplines:

Human Resources

Alcott logoAlcott HR has helped the Buffalo Niagara Partnership reduce our employee management costs and become more efficient.

Alcott HR, a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), has been helping business leaders grow their companies by providing tailored HR outsourcing solutions built around their needs, budgets, and corporate cultures.

Alcott HR delivers services through accredited and tenured specialists in payroll, risk management, benefits administration and other human resources areas.

Energy Services

Constellation_Brandmark_RGBConstellation is a leading competitive supplier of power, natural gas, renewable energy and energy management products and services for homes and businesses across the continental U.S.

Constellation has helped companies throughout Western New York save thousands of dollars each year on energy products.

As a Partnership member, you will receive a free consultation for your businesses.

Office Products

Eaton Office Supply guarantees at least 10 percent in savings when you switch your purchasing.

Eaton Office logo 178 x 66Locally-owned and operated, Eaton Office Supply is an office products supplier in Western New York that provides local support, next-day delivery and exceptional service.

When you purchase with Eaton Office Supply you are also directly supporting our local economy.

Through the creation of these affinity programs, we are able to provide Partnership members with yet another way to save money and benefit our local economy.

If you are interested in learning more about these programs, email me or call me at 716-541-1725.

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