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State leaders should find a way to fund a union-proposed productivity study that could help counter the "tough labor town" image now hampering efforts to attract businesses and jobs. It's a small investment that could pay big dividends in helping Buffalo out of its economic doldrums.

Just the fact that the study is proposed by the Buffalo AFL-CIO's new Economic Development Group is important. It signals that unions in this area have joined efforts to market a good regional labor force as a plus for a region trying to become more business-friendly.

Even with the state budget set for the coming year, it shouldn't be that difficult for Albany to find the $75,000 needed for the effort. Backed by this area's state lawmakers, the labor group is asking for equal shares from the discretionary funds available to the governor and Assembly and Senate leaders.

The study of strike patterns and the local labor-management experience would be done by researchers at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and would be published in print and on the Internet.

Proponents believe the outcome will separate fact from a myth of hotheaded union militancy, and provide data that will show productive working relationships between industry and unions. That, in turn, could help attract companies that need to fill jobs with good workers, by reducing the perceived risks of doing business in Western New York.

The study offers a chance to back the consensus opinion here with facts, and to help "sell" the local labor force as a major regional asset. At worst, it will provide information to shape even more improvements in regional competitiveness.

State leaders should waste no time in jumping on this bargain. Let this business-labor partnership get to work.

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