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Persistence pays; Preservation of the Buffalo mail facility is a lesson for supporters of the air base

There's no telling what combination of factors influenced the decision to preserve Buffalo's mail processing center, but the fact is that the William Street facility will remain open following weeks of efforts by both the public and private sector.

It's a lesson Western New York learned when the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was preserved in 2005, and one to keep prominently in mind as the military again sets its sights on that facility.

The U.S. Postal Service announcement last week was a big win for Buffalo and all of Western New York. Not only does it preserve 700 jobs, but it also safeguards efficient mail service here. Indeed, the Postal Service's original plan never made sense, a fact that supporters of the processing center were ultimately able to demonstrate to the decision-makers.

No one has ever disputed that the Postal Service is in dire straits. Not only has the weak economy hurt it, but even more disastrously, the Internet has kicked out the legs of its business model. Email and online shopping and bill-paying have shoved the Postal Service into a downward spiral that only a change of business practices can halt.

There can be no doubt that the Postal Service is going to make changes, some of them painful. There will be job losses and perhaps the end of Saturday mail deliveries. But the changes have to make financial and business sense and what the Postal Service proposed for Buffalo made neither.

"After going back and taking another look, the USPS finally saw the light and realized that closing this facility would be bad for Buffalo workers, bad for the USPS and bad for business," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a leader, with Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, in keeping the center open.

Among other problems, the original plan would have closed one of the Postal Service's most efficient processing centers while requiring that mail sent from one Buffalo address to another Buffalo address would first have to travel to Rochester. It wouldn't have helped anyone.

Some 229 processing centers will, in fact, be closed over the next two years, including those in Utica and Plattsburgh. Changes are coming, just as they have to hundreds of other businesses whose models the Internet has undermined.

But it appears that the Postal Service has realized that not all changes are beneficial and that some cuts would hurt more than they help. It was an important lesson for the Postal Service to learn, and just as important for Western New York to absorb as it confronts other challenges to its economy.