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October, 2001

The Erie-Niagara Regional Partnership - an ad-hoc subcommittee of the Erie and Niagara County Legislatures - was created in Fall, 1998 with the mission of fostering bi-county initiatives in the fields of economic development, government affairs, tourism & culture, and transportation.

The chairs of the two legislatures appoint the 24 members and act as co-chairs of the group (in the case of Erie County, Chairman Swanick designated Legislator William Pauly to be co-chair). There are four additional legislators from each county on ENRP, as well as the heads of the Erie County and Niagara County Industrial Development Agencies, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council, each county's planning department, a designee of the Erie County Executive, and three business representatives from each county. In 2001 the heads of the local government associations were designated as members as well. Empire State Development, Niagara County Tourism, the Buffalo-Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Niagara Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau participate as ad-hoc members of the group.

The ENRP meets bi-monthly, with its four subcommittees meeting monthly. Erie County Legislator Albert DeBenedetti chairs the Economic Development Subcommittee, Niagara County Legislator (and former ENRP co-chair) Gerald Meal chairs Government Affairs, Erie County Majority Leader Crystal Peoples chairs Tourism & Culture, and Niagara County Department of Planning, Development & Tourism Commissioner Samuel Ferraro heads up the Transportation Subcommittee.

As ENRP heads into its fourth year, Co-Chairs Clyde Burmaster and William Pauly requested that I update you on some of the group's recent accomplishments. While you will see that there have been many, above all the ENRP has succeeded in fostering communication and collaboration between our counties for the good of the region. When the Legislatures met to discuss the group in the summer of '98 it was the first time in years the two bodies were in the same space together. Four years later we have come together to truly think of ourselves as neighbors, and as one region.

A special thanks goes out to all the former subcommittee chairs and former members of the group, and to the current membership for making this past year ENRP's most successful one yet.

Sincerely,

Tod A. Kniazuk

Administrator, Erie-Niagara Regional Partnership
Majority Staff, Erie County Legislature

 

Buffalo-Niagara Tourist Express

The Buffalo-Niagara Tourist Express is the ENRP's most recent success, and one of our most significant, as it takes a project that had been talked about for years and makes it a reality. Tourists and residents now have a low-cost express shuttle between downtown Niagara Falls and Buffalo operating during the summer season.

This year was the first of a multi-year pilot for the service. The concentration was on the logistics of the service, ensuring that the operation was indeed feasible. By all accounts, it was a success. The shuttle operated from June 9 to Labor Day, with a total of 2,357 riders. A survey conducted showed that riders were satisfied with the service.

The drop off and pick up points were:

Seven round-trips were made per day, seven days a week. The service picked up passengers from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. The round-trip fare was $5 per passenger. The cost also included an all day Metro pass that allowed riders to board any other metro route at no charge. Purchasers also received discounts at area attractions like the Aquarium of Niagara, the Buffalo Zoo, and the Buffalo Bisons. The NFTA provided the vehicle and the logistics for the pilot, with the two counties' CVBs handling the promotion. The focus for next year will be on improving the promotion of the Express, thereby increasing ridership. Ultimately, it is hoped that the service will pay for itself through fares and sponsorships. Advance promotion of the service will be placed in the CVBs' guides, and we'll be focusing on integrating advertisement for the Express into other programs, area hotels, etc.

Buffalo Niagara Tourist Express

The focus for next year will be on improving the promotion of the Express, thereby increasing ridership. Ultimately, it is hoped that the service will pay for itself through fares and sponsorships. Advance promotion of the service will be placed in the CVBs' guides, and we'll be focusing on integrating advertisement for the Express into other programs, area hotels, etc.

Regional Economic Development Database (REDD)

Time and again it has been stressed that businesses thinking of relocating want to know if there is a suitable site within hours, not weeks, of their inquiry. With the Buffalo Niagara-Enterprise (BNE) promoting the region and the IDAs working hard to retain and attract business, it is critical that information about available parcels, infrastructure, zoning, and other pertinent issues be instantly accessible. That was the impetus for the development of REDD, a database that gives economic development agencies, site selectors, and others the information they need to determine if our region is a fit for their needs.

The ENRP worked closely with representatives from the area's economic development agencies and the University at Buffalo Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth to determine the necessary components of REDD. The Institute developed an action plan and pilot project in 1999-2000, and the two counties authorized full implementation in October, 2000. REDD is scheduled to be fully functional by the end of the year. The project is on track, on time, and on budget. The Institute is working closely with the Buffalo- Niagara Enterprise on the project.

The data included in REDD falls into the following categories:

The REDD also incorporates geographic information systems (GIS) technology, which enables users to display data on maps. Access to the database will be direct and seamless from the BNE website, maximizing their marketing efforts by allowing perspective businesses to gain immediate access to the next step in determining if this region will meet their needs.

As REDD nears completion, there are still several steps needed to be taken. The two counties must determine whether the Institute, BNE, or another agency will permanently house the REDD, multi-year funding must be determined to maintain and update the data, and it must be decided if we want to expand the site to include other counties who have expressed interest in joining the effort.

Overall this project has demonstrated that the ENRP and the two counties can enter into a long-term, complicated economic development project together. It was not a high profile project that was plastered all over the local news, but it will be an immensely useful tool for economic development for years to come.

Land Use Development Survey

As noted in the portion of the report on REDD, efforts are underway to market this region to prospective businesses, and the REDD will help firms determine the suitability of the region once BNE gets their attention. The next step is to make sure we have an adequate supply of sites ready and waiting for businesses to locate on. While we have an abundance of brownfields and to a lesser extent greenfields in the area, many of them are not shovel-ready; that is, able to be occupied without remediation (in the case of brownfields), rezoning, or other changes.

It is therefore useful to take an inventory of our sites, then rank them in terms of the speed with which they can be occupied by firms in the target fields the BNE is working to attract. We need to learn where our shovel ready sites are located, and where the next closest to being ready are. Just as important, we need to know what has to be done to these sites to make them shovel-ready as well.

The ENRP is working with the BNE on just such a survey. A consultant has been retained, and work is underway. BNE has provided quite a bit of the information gathering so that Deloitte & Touche can spend their time doing the qualitative work on the project. Overall, 100 sites will be examined; approximately 75 Erie County sites and 25 Niagara County locations.

Deloitte & Touche's work plan addresses three primary tasks aimed at assessing light industrial, office, warehouse, and research and development sites and parks in the two-county Buffalo Niagara Region, determining their utility for BNE target industries (i.e., Information Technology, Medical Technology (R&D and medical device manufacturing), Professional Support Centers (back office operations) and Warehouse/Distribution), and developing improvement strategies.

The tasks are as follows:

Completion and presentation of the project is scheduled for November, 2001. It will then be up to government, the IDAs, BNE, and others to determine what we want to do with this information. Development of a unified and comprehensive approach to site readiness will go a long way in making the region competitive for the location of new business.

Regional Cultural Tourism Program

One of the four target areas for bi-county collaboration in the ENRP is tourism. Millions flock to Niagara Falls to see one of the world's natural wonders, but few of them stay more than a few hours. Keeping them in the area is a key to the future of our region, as tourism becomes an increasingly important part of our economy. In the meantime, Buffalo has a wealth of architecture, the largest theater district of any mid-size American city, and other cultural wonders. Linking these two cities and all the attractions in the two counties was identified early on in ENRP's history as a top priority.

While the Buffalo-Niagara Tourist Express provides a literal link between cities, the Regional Cultural Tourism Program provides a programmatic one. The program was created in 2000 as a collaboration between Erie and Niagara Counties, both counties' Arts Councils, the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau and Niagara County Tourism. The goal of this joint effort is to develop and implement a marketing program to draw tourists to this region. Patrick Keyes was hired as the program's executive director, with the program being housed in (and utilizing many of the resources of) the Arts Council of Buffalo & Erie County. The first product of the program is the Festival of the Niagaras brochure, a promotional tool for the myriad of festivals in our region, not only in Erie and Niagara counties, but in Southern Ontario as well. The brochure was distributed throughout our two counties and in Canada this past season, resulting in greater awareness of the many wonderful events we have here in the summer.

As the Regional Cultural Tourism Program continues to develop its role in the tourism community and its future projects, it is imperative that the CVBs, Niagara County Tourism, Erie County's Department of Environment & Planning, the Arts Councils, and the ENRP play an active role in integrating this program into our overall regional efforts and in developing successful projects.

Economic Development Initiatives

In addition to the projects listed above, the ENRP Economic Development Subcommittee has worked on many economic development projects, such as:

Government Affairs Initiatives

The Government Affairs Subcommittee will be the focus of much activity in 2002 as it has been the committee that has laid the groundwork for several major initiatives, including:

Tourism & Culture Initiatives

The main focus of the Tourism & Culture Subcommittee will be the second year of the Buffalo-Niagara Tourist Express, but following are a few of the other significant programs the group has been working on:

Transportation Initiatives

The Transportation Subcommittee has been monitoring and working on a myriad of regional issues, including: