There are a number of words -- all of them good -- to describe what First Niagara has done in kicking off a corporate challenge to fill a budget gap or the Empire State Games. Here are two: leadership and citizenship.
The bank this week donated $500,000, ensuring that the Games will be held as scheduled this summer in Buffalo. It also challenged its corporate peers in the region to come up with an additional half-million to fully plug the gap.
The Empire State Games is a great event in New York, but the Games weren't held last year. Facing the reality of the national recession, the state pulled funding in 2009. With First Niagara's generosity -- that's a third word -- there should be no doubt about the security of Buffalo's Games, scheduled July 21 to 25 -- provided First Niagara's shining example is followed.
Ensuring that they go on is important to Buffalo, if only to continue the spate of good publicity the city has received through such vehicles as last month's NCAA tournament and, before that, the national exposure it received on a two-hour "Extreme Makeover" show. Because of First Niagara's leadership and its sense of citizenship, Western New York should not have the problems that the Hudson Valley did when last year's Games were canceled.
The announcement of the bank's donation occurred as a ceremonial lighting of the torch was held last Thursday morning at the Larkin at Exchange Building. With that, a countdown to the Games began. There are less than four months until the Games begin and less than that for Western New York businesses to rise to First Niagara's challenge. Our bet is that it will happen. It must.
It is Western New Yorkers' good fortune that this region is overflowing with good citizens, including those of the corporate sort. Even suffering through economic and population decline, this area has always been one to dig a little deeper. We will be surprised and disappointed if that additional half-million doesn't turn up in fairly short order.