A joint effort between Niagara and Erie counties to compile regional economic development data on a computer and possibly on a World Wide Web site is moving ahead.
The Niagara County Legislature's Committee on Commerce, Tourism and Agriculture unanimously approved spending $30,000 on the proposed regional data base. The full Legislature will vote on the appropriation Tuesday.
The Erie County Legislature unanimously voted July 15 to spend $164,500 on the project, which will be carried out by the Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth at the University at Buffalo.
The institute's director, John B. Sheffer II, and Erie County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, addressed the committee in support of the two-county plan.
Sheffer said the purpose of the project is to compile and computerize all relevant economic development information.
He said interviews with potential users, such as business people and site selectors who look at potential locations for industries, will determine whether the data base will be available on the Web, or if it will be used internally to generate presentations for interested developers.
The institute already has a 7,000-page Web site, the Regional Information Network, that compiles information about all eight Western New York counties. Webmaster Olivia Arditi said the information most frequently accessed regards the area's resources in education, housing and transportation, as well as economic development.
The Erie County visitors found a receptive audience, not only for this specific project, but for regionalism.
Said committee Chairman Robert R. Villani, R-Town of Niagara, "I think it's a very progressive step toward making us a stronger family."
Niagara County Legislature Chairman Gerald E. Meal, R-Royalton, declared, "We need to draw on our strengths, and that's our region."
Swanick told the committee, "The days are gone when we used to compete with each other."
In addition to the $30,000 in cash, Niagara County will offer $15,000 worth of services, primarily those of Real Property Tax Services Director William F. Budde Jr., who will be able to speed up his half-finished project of placing all the county's parcel-by-parcel tax maps on computers.
Sheffer said there is no profit in the project for UB, his institute, or any of its officials. "This money goes into paying the graduate students who will work with us, and gathering the data, some of which must be purchased," Sheffer said.
In the first six months of work, the institute will compile an "action plan" as it gathers the data, talks to would-be users about their needs, and decides how to design the data base.
Next March, work will begin on a pilot data base project. By next September, that should be completed and the counties will have to decide whether to make it permanent, Sheffer said.