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Political, economic changes cited in Partnership report; Advocacy efforts are 'paying off'

Buffalo Niagara Partnership President Andrew J. Rudnick looked on the bright side Tuesday.

While the region continues to face a wide range of economic and political challenges, Rudnick noted that the Partnership helped bring about a handful of long-sought changes over the last year, both politically and in economic development.

From a stepped-up political push that backed a slate of candidates who helped swing the State Senate to Republican control, to an expanded program to provide lower-cost hydropower to the state's businesses, Rudnick said the group's advocacy efforts are paying off.

"All of this effort was focused on making sure the employer perspective was brought to bear when government decisions were made," Rudnick said during the Partnership's annual report to about 150 members at the Center for the Arts on the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst.

The Partnership, working in tandem with the Unshackle Upstate business group, backed a slate of 24 candidates statewide during last November's election, with 18 winning and the Republicans gaining a majority in the State Senate.

"The campaign worked," Rudnick said.

The Partnership's long campaign to replace the state's Power for Jobs hydropower program for businesses with a longer-term and expanded initiative also came to fruition with the adoption of the state's Recharge New York effort.

That program doubles to 910 megawatts the amount of low-cost electricity available to businesses, at the expense of a program that lowered power costs for rural customers. It also established seven-year contracts for those allocations, rather than the annual authorizations that had made the Power for Jobs program unreliable in the eyes of the business community.

"It will give companies greater certainty over their energy costs," Rudnick said.

The Partnership also was an ardent supporter of the revised UB 2020 plan that was approved by the State Legislature last week and will lead to the university's medical school moving to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Jon Dandes, the Partnership's chairman and the president of Rich Products Corp.'s baseball operations, said it is essential that the business group remain politically active.

"Our most important activity is being involved in the middle of the political process," he said. "For the business community to not be involved would be a death knell" for upstate business interests.

"We need to continue to do more," he said. "We need to continue to participate."

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com