Earlier this year, officials in Erie and Niagara counties cooperated to bring a low-fare airline to Niagara Falls International Airport. One of the reasons was to create enough airline competition in the region to drive down exorbitant fares at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Lower air fares were a strong regional goal, important to business and the general citizenry all across the Niagara Frontier.
Kiwi International Airlines has come and gone, but the effort brought together public officials who, in the words of Erie County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, "never knew each other."
Well, they do now. In the process of working on air fares, they recognized other common needs and opportunities. The result is the formation of the Erie-Niagara Regional Partnership, a panel consisting of five representatives of each of the two county legislatures, plus business appointees, planners and economic development people. It's a good move.
As the two counties try to work together, Swanick cites tourism, convention activity, transportation and economic development as possible fields of shared endeavor. Another area could be the health of large industrial employers whose work force comes from both counties. What's the future of Lockport's Delphi Automotive Systems now that General Motors wants to cast it off? A two-county effort for state assistance could help preserve employment.
Industrial development agencies of the two counties -- instead of competing -- could function cooperatively in awarding tax breaks for new and expanding businesses. A regional approach to many matters might produce more federal aid.
Swanick vows the new group will go light on talk and report-writing in favor of "getting things done." It's a matter of determination. "It'll work if people want it to work," says Niagara County Legislature Chairman Gerald E. Meal, R-Royalton.
For years, this region has fallen short of its full potential. One reason is a fractured outlook. Regional thinking that ventures beyond arbitrary county borders is essential for a brighter future. The new two-county panel strives constructively to think and act in that more comprehensive regional way.