We can’t afford to keep Buffalo a secret

A locally branded t-shirt that says, “Keep Buffalo A Secret,” has been popping up all over social media. It can be fun to reminisce about the relative time that Buffalo Niagara had been a forgotten place, and the positive cultural elements that incubated during that time. However, this t-shirt represents the sentiment that the secret is finally out, and people are starting to hear just how great our region really is.

Despite the important returns destination promotion provides us, Erie County has not provided adequate resources to our very own destination marketing organization, Visit Buffalo Niagara (VBN), and is helping to “Keep Buffalo A Secret.” In the Partnership’s latest Metro 50 report, we show how severely lacking our efforts are to tell our story, especially when compared with our peer metros.

Erie County invests the least in tourism out of our peers, despite being a targeted growth sector for our region, its large contribution to tax revenue, and being a workforce development attractor. The primary funding source for destination promotion comes from the bed tax, charged to tourists who visit the region and stay in hotels. And while bed tax revenue is at an all-time high of $11.2 million, funding for VBN has flatlined over the last decade. In addition, after adjusting for inflation, VBN has $500,000 less in spending power than it did in 2004.

Our peer metro areas invest far more in destination promotion. In fact, VBN receives 46% less in bed tax funding than the peer-metro average. What’s more, Buffalo receives the lowest amount from bed tax revenue of any peer metro. Finally, VBN is funded at the lowest total level of any peer metro except for Rochester, NY.

As our economic and cultural upswing continues, Buffalo Niagara is garnering national and even international attention as a destination to be sought. Not only does this attention continue to sustain our growing tourism and recreation industry, but it is vital to workforce attraction efforts. As more people learn of our vibrant work/live/play lifestyle, the pool of candidates who would consider relocation to our region will grow, bringing much-needed new talent and skills.

We can no longer afford to “Keep Buffalo A Secret.” As Buffalo Niagara’s economy continues to evolve, we must be doing everything we can to attract a more dynamic workforce. Now more than ever, we must restore proper funding to VBN, and get the word out about Buffalo’s comeback. Click below to tell your elected officials that now is the time to take action.

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Metro 50 Buffalo Niagara is a series of ‘factsheet’ publications on topical areas relevant to local economic development, placing those issues in the context of comparable metropolitan areas. Each publication evaluates Buffalo Niagara’s performance and identifies relevant best practices for key economic development initiatives. To learn more and read other Metro 50 reports, click here.