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James J. Allen, 68, longtime Amherst IDA head

Aug. 27, 1949 – Oct. 31, 2017

James J. Allen, who served for nearly 37 years as executive director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, died Tuesday in his East Amherst home. He was 68 and had suffered from congestive heart failure in recent years, but his death was unexpected.

Mr. Allen was a native of Rochester's West Side. He graduated from the Aquinas Institute, where he played football and boxed. He graduated from St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in political science.

Mr. Allen served as president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce from 1973 to 1979. In 1979, he began his lengthy tenure as head of the Amherst IDA, during which he was widely credited with helping to fuel the town's development as a suburban economic engine. Mr. Allen retired from the IDA post in 2016.

He earned a master's degree in urban planning from the University at Buffalo in the late 1990s. Mr. Allen then taught in UB's department of urban and regional planning from 1999 to the present. He also taught at UB's Law School and, briefly, at Canisius College.

He served on the board of directors of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and of the Western New York Business Development Fund. Mr. Allen was a member of the New York Economic Development Council, International Economic Development Council, National Association of Office and Industrial Parks, Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association.

He played trumpet and bugle, starting in his youth, with drum and bugle corps such as The Dutchtown Ramblers, The Statesmen, and the Rochester Crusaders. His drum corps career was highlighted by many years with the Mighty St. Joes, of Batavia, where he was a soloist for the corps as they won multiple state championships in the 1960s.

He helped to develop and lead the UB Thunder of the East marching band, where he served as an assistant director from 2000 to 2013.

Mr. Allen helped to create judging criteria and protocol for drum and bugle corps, scholastic marching bands and color guards throughout the United States and Canada, and continued to judge marching arts competitions from the 1970s to this past year.

He was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 2011 for his long service as a coach and judge.

Allen met his wife of 48 years, the former Linda Viele, when they were teenagers through the drum and bugle corps program in Batavia.

Additional survivors include his daughters, Jamie Allen-Powers and Lindsay; his son, Michael; his brothers, Tom and Donny, who also are active in drum corps; and his sisters, Karen McCoy and Nancy Fiorino.

A funeral service will be offered at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 5 in Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.


James J. Allen, former IDA head who 'put Amherst on the map,' dead at 68

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