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Another Voice: International trade is a key to WNY economy

By Nancy Dempsey

As reported Sept. 15, Erie Country Executive Mark Poloncarz vetoed a local law intended to benefit purveyors of goods and services made in the United States. As Americans, we understand the call to “buy American.” As Western New Yorkers, Poloncarz, the County Legislature and the rest of us should consider the regional workforce that has evolved over the last several decades as a result of international trade, trade agreements and secure border crossings.

Our federal government has a significant presence in Western New York to facilitate legitimate trade and cargo security. Buffalo ranked third in 2016 out of 100 land border crossings for the number of commercial truck and rail crossings, behind Laredo, Texas, and Detroit. Buffalo is one of 10 Centers of Excellence and Expertise, a transformational concept to support the importing trade community utilizing risk-based business practices and focusing on industry-specific issues for industrial and manufacturing materials.

Customs brokers are significant employers in the region. There are over 40 brokers in the service port. Customs broker operations range from a single employee to hundreds, processing import transactions for their customers. Employees require attention to detail and accuracy, ensuring the goods enter the U.S. compliant and with the appropriate deposits of duties, taxes and fees. Brokers with significant local operations have employees in information technology, sales, marketing, accounting and human resources.

Third-party logistics companies support local, regional and global supply chains through inventory management, pick-and-pack operations, consignment facilitation and small manufacturing operations. These companies need employees with forklift, commercial scale and packaging, machine operating and safety certifications, and customer service, accounting, marketing, sales and management skills.

International freight forwarders provide services including regulatory filings and facilitation of cargo movement to overseas locations, while advising on compliance with the U.S. State Department, Department of Commerce, Customs and the Census Bureau. Forwarders support local companies that participate in the global economy.

We know that most of the cargo crossing Buffalo/Niagara Falls is just passing through, destined for consumers who are not in Western New York. Our proximity to the Greater Toronto market and ready access to the Port of New York/New Jersey is ideal for those professional industries that serve international trade, as demonstrated by the Buffalo Niagara International Gateway Organization (, named a strategic partner of the Port of New York/New Jersey. Further, World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara ( has been providing education, networking and access to resources for Western New York and Southern Ontario companies for almost 30 years.

As you consider adopting “buy American” programs, please remember your neighbors.

Nancy Dempsey is chairwoman of the board of directors of the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara.

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