When Ray Fabiniak first started working with the Orchard Park Economic Development Committee, he looked at the group's function as something like handshaking.
"People had envisioned Orchard Park as a stiff community, tough to walk into, tough to get permits in," Fabiniak said. "We thought we'd be an official greeter, take them to see the people they had to to get the permits and everything. But it got to be much more than that."
Over the past two decades, the committee has taken on tasks such as helping create the Quaker Center industrial park and instituting the Four Corners Facade Program to strengthen businesses in the heart of the village.
The group is an all-volunteer, nongovernmental entity, and Fabiniak has been its only chairman. He is stepping down at the end of this year.
Fabiniak, a grocer by trade, said the group has tried to do a lot with little actual power.
"We're primarily an advisory committee, not an IDA (industrial development agency)," he said. "I'm accustomed to dealing with things in a very narrow time frame, but I've learned governments and communities take a lot more patience. It's slower to develop."
Fabiniak, who was an Army Air Forces pilot in World War II, has been in business in the area since 1945. He said he was stepping down in part because he has added two new stores, in Hamburg and Batavia, to his Orchard Park Jubilee store, but also because it's time for someone new to take over.
"The workload is one of the primary reasons, but there are others, too," he said in a recent interview. "I've been chairing that committee for 20 years, and I really feel it's time for new blood. Change is important, and I think there's good young people out there to take over."
The industrial park and the facade project have been two of the major projects Fabiniak, the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce's 1992 Man of the Year, has worked on.
"His energy and vision are just unparalleled," said John Bailey, the Orchard Park village attorney and a fellow member of the committee. "He is personally responsible for the Quaker Center and the facade program getting off the ground. Without him, I'm not sure either project would have gotten started."
Orchard Park Councilman John Mills, who has known Fabiniak since working for him as a teen-ager 35 years ago, agreed Fabiniak's efforts were crucial in creating Quaker Center.
"We have a lot of businessmen in town, they help and they donate, but he goes above all that. He's in a very busy business, and he's taken a lot of his time, and he's brought many businesses into Orchard Park."
Fabiniak said Orchard Park -- and whoever replaces him with the Economic Development Committee -- faces every town's challenge of finding a big draw that will help all of the community's other businesses. "We have a need for something that will get people to say, 'I'm going to drive out to Orchard Park for it,' " he said. "Something that's brick and mortar, that's community-oriented, loved by the community and will bring in people from the outside."