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MERGING LEADERSHIP IN A VITAL EFFORT

The naming of James J. Allen, executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, as the number two executive at the Erie County Industrial Development Agency is a strong step toward a more unified approach to economic development.

Although local government officials note that the situation is temporary until background political issues are settled, the alliance of talent should benefit vital efforts to attract business and jobs to an area that needs both the economic boost and the development energy that new commercial interests - and revitalized existing ones - can provide.

A strong and cohesive development effort is vital to the recovery of Western New York. The more tightly collaborative efforts can be focused, the better they can address the serious problems that have held this area back.

Thomas A. Kucharski now heads both Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and the ECIDA. Kucharski's leadership at both organizations also provides a unifying force. The addition of Allen should allow better development of a countywide economic development plan.

ECIDA Chairman William A. O'Loughlin Jr. fittingly described the two as "a perfect assemblage of talent." Even more needed is the assemblage of resources.

Kucharski and Allen reportedly will work to create a seamless economic development system, so businesses locating in any part of the county can be eligible for the same tax abatements, loan programs and training assistance.

It's no secret that Amherst has been able to lure businesses in the past through its more flexible policies. Because of that, Allen and the Amherst IDA have been under fire from downtown Buffalo property owners. Lawsuits and legal entanglements continue.

But the teaming of Kucharski and Allen, both tasked with affecting change, allows both development executives to take a broader view. Allen, who has proven his ability to work for Amherst, now is going to work on the city's behalf. No argument there.

Moreover, questions about Kucharski's ability to run both the BNE and the ECIDA, both full-time jobs, have been eased by Allen's move.

This change networks all three important economic development agencies. Logistical questions still abound, but this unification should be more focused on developmental goals and less on rivalries. There is more of a chance to set shared priorities and procedures for the county on economic development.

This region needs such cooperation and collaboration, if it is to attract business. These new alliances offer a structure for such cooperation, and a promising chance to attack counterproductive jurisdictional conflicts in efforts to grow the local economy.

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