An area business leader issued a call for "civic optimism" Tuesday, asking local residents to stop lamenting past failures and start envisioning a bright future for the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Marsha S. Henderson, Buffalo district president for KeyBank, set the tone for a new leadership forum by calling on area residents to join the private sector in promoting the region with good word of mouth advertising.
The first step to creating regional economic growth is to quit being negative and begin talking up the people, schools, cultural institutions, sports teams and attractions making this a great place to live, Henderson said.
"To me, it's the single most important trait that has to be instilled in our community and the one that is most readily within our control," Henderson said.
She asked for an end to post-mortem debate about not locating the University at Buffalo Amherst campus downtown and other long gone decisions.
"They're great folklore, but lamenting the past is not going to build a future for us. It's time to move on," Henderson said. "It's time to stop talking about what might have been and time to start talking about what will be."
The KeyBank executive was the first speaker in a new LeadersSpeak.Now series organized by Leadership Buffalo, a civic organization founded in 1987 to promote local leadership.
Kevin P. Gaughan, founder of the Chautauqua Conference on Regionalism, will deliver the next talk in the series on Oct. 19.
Brenda McDuffie, president of Leadership Buffalo, said Henderson's message of civic optimism set the right tone for the leadership series.
"I think this absolutely reinforces the direction we want to go in our community . . . I'm very encouraged about a new air, a sense of renewal. Sometimes you have to go down that spiral and reach the bottom, then you can look up. And we have a lot of great things to look up to in our community," McDuffie said.
The Buffalo area economy has spiraled downward for decades following the loss of steel and other heavy industry. The 1990's will end in 15 weeks with a local legacy of population decline, minuscule job growth and high taxes.
But the regional push to develop a new economic base and create jobs got a major push this year with the establishment of a five-year, $25 million campaign called the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise Corp.
The sole focus of the campaign is to promote the Buffalo-Niagara region outside of Western New York and create jobs. Henderson is a member of the council's board. Most of the $25 million was donated by area businesses.
"I'm very confident about the eventual outcome (of the enterprise council)," she said. "It's an extremely positive statement about this community and the belief the business community has in it."
Henderson, an area native and University at Buffalo graduate, said local residents can help by improving the Buffalo-Niagara region.
Speaking to crowd at the Irish Classical Theater in Buffalo, she encouraged Western New Yorkers to take leadership roles by getting involved. Small leadership roles, such as voting in elections or joining a block club, all add up to make a big difference, she said.
"It's that willingness to be involved and not wait for the authority. I believe we need to find leaders all across our community," she said.