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New group formed to lure businesses

A new group of local businesses, economic development groups and labor unions wants to roll out the Welcome Wagon to get out-of-town business officials to take a look at what the Buffalo Niagara region has to offer.

The group, Explore Buffalo Niagara 2007, on Monday plans to outline its initiative, which will culminate in a three-day forum from Sept. 12-14.

The group enlisted renowned investor Warren E. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and The Buffalo News, to make welcoming comments on a DVD that will be sent to business officials as part of their invitation to the forum.

Buffett, in his comments, notes how he bought The News 30 years ago and how, recently, Berkshire's GEICO insurance business has opened a customer service center in Amherst that now employs more than 1,000 people. "I'm a longtime fan of the area," he said.

"I have seen firsthand the area's great resources, especially its smart, productive, friendly and loyal work force," Buffett said in his videotaped remarks. "It's an ideal place to take advantage of distinctive natural and cultural assets, including fresh water, strategic location, sustainable energy and affordable housing, as well as exciting arts and sports
events."

The initiative is headed by David A. Roll, the Western New York chapter manager for the National Electrical Contractors Association, with sponsors ranging from the Empire State Development Corp. and the M&T Bank Foundation to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

"It's not that we're stepping in and doing the role of economic development agencies," Roll said. "The whole purpose of this is to support and assist the economic development entities."

Organizers plan to develop a personalized itinerary for the visit of each official who attends the forum that emphasizes their particular interests, from brownfield redevelopment and energy to housing and water resources.

"They won't be sitting in meeting rooms all day," Roll said. "We'll get them out to see places, meet people."

The initiative will be unveiled Monday during an 11 a.m. news conference at the WNED-TV studios in Buffalo.

Other sponsors of the initiative include the New York Power Authority; State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newstead; Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo; and the New York State United Teachers Association.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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