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Senecas seek bigger role as area developers; Officials of 2 states attend meeting

The Seneca Nation of Indians wants to be a bigger player in economic development across Western New York and into Pennsylvania.

The nation hosted a meeting of economic development officials from both states Thursday in its Seneca Allegany Casino to learn what each other has to offer and how they can work together in the future.

"For the longest time, I've wanted to get all the IDAs and development agencies in this region together in one room to discover and discuss what we have in common," said Robert Odawi Porter, the Seneca Nation president.

"Let's see how we can all work together to foster and build economic development options to benefit all our people, whether they live within Seneca, New York or Pennsylvania boundaries," Porter said. "Good business knows no boundaries."

The daylong meeting was one of the first times that economic development officials from the Seneca Nation and five New York and two Pennsylvania counties had gotten together to talk about economic development.

"I think it's a great first step," said John Cappellino, executive vice president of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. "It's a great door-opening step."

The first part of the session featured the development officials outlining the programs and initiatives they have in place to bolster the economy. The afternoon session featured Seneca officials discussing their economic goals and opportunities. The meeting was not open to the media or public.

"We see lots of opportunities to potentially partner with them," said Paul S. Pfeiffer, a spokesman for the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise business development and marketing group.

Pfeiffer said the Senecas' investment arm, Seneca Holdings, could be a potential source of funding for deals the BNE is working on to bring companies to the region or help existing ones expand.

"They want to be more of a part in the process," Pfeiffer said.

The session drew 40 representatives from 17 local, county and regional agencies, in addition to top officials from the Seneca Nation.


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