By Craig Turner
If there’s any “plan” for Buffalo Niagara that can legitimately be considered a community-developed effort, it’s the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council’s five-year plan. There is no denying that the governor’s process was effective in garnering input from an all-inclusive stakeholder group in order to deliver a comprehensive plan that was ultimately an award-winning one.
The plan, “A Strategy for Prosperity in Western New York,” lists our region’s most important assets for economic development and job creation as our geographic location, our international border and our connection to Canada. This conclusion was not drawn by the trucking industry, the tourism industry or some academic at the University at Buffalo. It was the consensus of all of the community stakeholders who participated in the process – more than a thousand of them.
So it’s especially aggravating that now, three years after the passage of that consensus plan, we continue to fight the same battles at the Peace Bridge that we’ve been fighting for years. The newest proposition: Take truck traffic completely off of the Peace Bridge and divert it elsewhere.
We have a community-driven plan that says our greatest asset in the creation of jobs is our connection to Canada. We continue to celebrate attraction of Canadian companies to our region that are creating jobs in bulk. Then why do we immobilize ourselves with endless debate? All we’re doing is sending a clear message to the global manufacturing community that we’re not as open for business as we say we are. Decision-makers at the companies we’re trying to woo can read a newspaper the same as you and me.
Between sustained efforts to stifle commercial traffic at the Peace Bridge and calls to take the Skyway down, with no alternative identified, our community is telling the world that we don’t understand logistics – particularly frustrating because we actually do logistics very well. As an example, at the same time as New York State is going to great lengths to attract companies to the revitalized Bethlehem Steel property, we are trying to cut off truck access to that property. It is a wildly counterproductive approach when you’re trying to attract manufacturing jobs. Does that sound like “smart” growth?
Kudos to our leaders whose initiatives have brought thousands of people downtown to live, and many more to work and play. We are clearly on the right track in many regards. But it is critical that we have our community development and economic development policies aligned. Thousands of Western New Yorkers’ jobs are tied to trucks coming across the Peace Bridge. It’s time to put the needs of the region as a whole at the forefront of this discussion.
Craig Turner is director of logistics solutions for Extra Mile Transportation in Clarence.