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AGREEMENT GIVES BNE CLEAR MANDATE TO 'SELL' THE REGION

An agreement that positions Buffalo Niagara Enterprise as the region's key marketing entity was approved Tuesday by members of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

The memorandum of understanding spells out the relationship between the Partnership and the new private sector-driven regional marketing initiative.

Officials said the agreement aims to give BNE a clearly-defined mandate to "sell" the region, while minimizing the likelihood that it will become embroiled in divisive debates.

The document stipulates that the Partnership will continue in its role as the region's largest business advocacy group, pushing for policies and projects that aim to spur economic growth.

Randall L. Clark, chairman of Dunn Tire Corp. who sits on the boards of both entities, emphasized the importance of defining the BNE's role as it launches the first phase of an effort to create new jobs and investment.

"The Partnership's job is to shape the product. The BNE's job is marketing that product to the outside world," said Clark.

The BNE is a five-year initiative that has already received more than $26 million in funding commitments. Most of the contributions have been pledged by companies, although the state, county, city and other public entities have also made financial commitments to the effort.

Officials said the agreement was crafted in a way that tries to insulate the BNE from policy-making tug-of-wars and reduces the likelihood that it will find itself pitted against the Partnership if certain projects divide the community.

"By having clearly-defined roles, we eliminate the possibility that some might run over to the BNE any time they don't agree with the Partnership," Clark said.

Some recalled incidents back in the 1980s and early 1990s when the Greater Buffalo Development Foundation and the Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce were advancing different agendas. The two entities merged and became the Partnership in early 1993. Architects of the agreement claimed the pact will ensure that the BNE and the Partnership "complement and supplement" each other.

"The GBDF and the Chamber did not have well-defined roles. There was a lot of overlap," said Clark.

But ever since the BNE was formed a year ago, some have raised concerns that the Partnership might attempt to exert too much influence on the new marketing entity.

Partnership President Andrew J. Rudnick said he thinks the agreement will "allay" those concerns.

"This agreement tells the people who support these organizations that we are working in a complementary, strategically inter-connected fashion," Rudnick said.

The memorandum also stipulates that the Partnership will provide $250,000 to the BNE each year. Rudnick said the contribution will be in the form of in-kind support, including free rent in space that is adjacent to the Partnership's offices in the Main Place Tower.

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