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Economic development is central to Partnership’s comprehensive agenda

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s 2016 agenda offers solid guidance for local businesses.

Under the leadership of Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, the Partnership has issued an ambitious agenda that includes opposing the governor’s effort to raise the minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour by mid-2021. This increase is already scheduled for state employees and fast-food workers.

The state’s minimum wage rose to $9 on Dec. 31. The Partnership holds that an increase to $15 would “mean fewer jobs for those who are already struggling, and higher consumer prices for goods and services across the board.” As noted by this page, raising the minimum wage that much so quickly could prove to be a burden to businesses, consumers and workers, if businesses move to new technologies that reduce the need for employees.

The organization supports reform of the state’s workers’ compensation program. That could lower employer costs, which increased from 19th-highest in the nation in 2008 to fourth-highest in 2014. The Partnership wants changes that would reduce workers’ comp payments in light of medical advances. Such changes are reasonable and long overdue.

The Partnership also wants to see elimination of a utility tax on manufacturers and other big power users, supporting changes to the state’s energy regulations under the ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision process that promises to be more market-driven and transparent. The utility tax discourages companies from doing business in New York State and makes little sense from an economic development perspective.

The Partnership backs a number of changes specific to Buffalo, including establishment of a registry for vacant properties as a way to help distressed areas and highlight redevelopment possibilities.

In addition, the group supports changes in border crossing measures and is urging the development of a master plan for infrastructure around the RiverBend project in South Buffalo.

The group wants changes to worker training programs to focus on the skills and jobs in high demand in industries targeted by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council’s strategic plan.

The Partnership, the region’s main business advocacy organization, plays an important role in promoting businesses and, by extension, citizenry. Stakeholders should take note.