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WHEN LESS IS MORE

The idea of consolidating Erie County's six industrial development agencies into one body is not a new one. Still, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership's "Albany Agenda 2001," which includes a request for enabling state legislation to accomplish that consolidation, deserves serious consideration by lawmakers.

There are six IDAs in this county - Erie County, Amherst, Clarence, Concord, Hamburg and Lancaster. The Partnership would like to see them blended into one entity.

The problem is what it's always been here, the inability of local officials to see past their own turf. Perhaps they haven't noticed the flight of jobs and people from this area. And while such towns as Amherst remain reluctant on this and other issues of regionalism, slight variations among the IDAs can cause heartburn for businesses trying to expand or enter into this area.

An examination of the ordinances and statutes governing the current IDAs reveals a mind-boggling array of requirements. Any consolidation would have to be conducted with careful, measured steps. There also are legitimate concerns about ensuring a variety of viewpoints. A single IDA dominated by business people would eliminate the checks and balances that currently exist.

On the other hand, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, with its 19-member board, is rife with personalities - politicians, union members, community groups and Erie County Association of School Boards - to name a few - that can make it difficult to get anything accomplished. The best answer here may simply boil down to an examination of the structure of one countywide IDA - what's the best way to create a one-stop development agency that will attract new businesses and keep current companies here?

At this point, businesses almost need a consultant to work with the various IDAs. It's ridiculous. What's involved here is change, which is always painful. But when it comes to creating one agency to deal with businesses looking to move into this area or expand, there needs to be one-stop shopping as opposed to six-stop shopping.

Given this area's other issues - high taxes, union constraints and power costs - the county doesn't need another reason to get crossed off the list of businesses looking to move here.

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