Legislature updated on progress of county business growth program
Deputy Commissioner of Business Development for the county’s Department of Economic Development Michael Casale spoke about the program and its importance with businesses in the county.
“The mission is pretty simple,” said Casale. “Contact and meet with as many Niagara County companies as possible. “
He said it is important to have dialog with existing businesses, because it is much easier to help an existing business grow than it is to bring a new one into the community.
“Helping existing companies grow and become more competitive is the most effective way to stimulate our local economy,” said Legislator Rick Updegrove. “More importantly it recognizes the commitment those companies have already made to Niagara County and to the residents of Niagara County.”
As for bringing in new business, Updegrove said research tells them firms are looking to site new facilities and talk to existing companies in the regions they target.
“There for, a strong business retention program, which we have, becomes a foundation for new business attraction,” he said.
Most of the business retention program’s focus is on the manufacturing sector, but other businesses throughout the county are also targeted.
The IDA creates a call list, with the goal to contact at least 60 companies every year, meeting with as many of those companies as possible.
One goal is to retain existing county jobs by promoting local expansion and job creation.
Since the program began in 2000, more than 700 companies have been contacted and there have been more than 550 meetings.
For 2012, 39 Niagara County companies have been contacted so far and 32 meetings have been conducted.
Casale said the program is also designed to create awareness of programs available for businesses to use.
“You would be stunned at how many companies were unaware of the programs available,” said Casale.
Programs include county IDA incentives — RLF, PILOT program, sales tax — NYPA Hydropower, Empower Niagara, skills training and workforce development programs, Empire State Development programs and Utilities Economic Development programs.
In other news:
• A resolution was passed to support the City of Niagara Falls receiving New York State Consolidated Funding.
Seth Piccirillo, Director of Community Development for the City of Niagara Falls said the city applied for $700,000 from NYS Consolidated Funding on July 16 for the Downtown Niagara Falls Stabilization Project.
“Our goal here is simple,” said Piccirillo. “We’re trying to create an up and coming neighborhood with modern amenities in downtown Niagara Falls to attract young professionals and attract new residents.”
He said it is no mystery why this is needed, because the city has lost 50,000 people in the last 50 years.
“To compete in the modern economy we need more residents and we need young professionals that employers of the modern economy are looking for,” said Piccirillo.
The city is seeking $250,000 from the Office of Homes and Community Renewal through the New York Main Street program and $450,000 through the Empire State Development Grant.
The downtown stabilization project will focus on a specific target area in Niagara Falls to best use investment and best use resources. It will target the area closest to the falls and in walking distance of the new Culinary Institute.
That area includes the Third Street Commercial District and the Park Place Historic District.
“While this area needs work it has strong building blocks and ways to attract this young professional market,” said Piccirillo.
The city’s application is currently being reviewed, which Piccirillo said by the county supporting their project it could help them receive funding.