Development is Critical to the Future of Niagara Falls

Author: Bob Restaino

Development is Critical to the Future of Niagara Falls

Following are Bob’s complete thoughts on the issue of development in this election.

Our city has a history of focusing ALL of its resources on only one economic development area. Decades ago the city concentrated on the heavy industrial base that had grown along Buffalo Avenue and failed to put any emphasis on tourism development, as a consequence we lost valuable time in that competitive market.

Now in an effort to “make up time” great energy and focus is on trying to build up tourism development; however, truly lacking a comprehensive approach to building the family tourist experience. Sometime ago there was great excitement with the state announcement of “Wonder Falls”, and nearly five years later we are still waiting for any sign of delivery on the attraction.

Yet other opportunities brought forward by private businesses have been discarded because we were told that “having more items one major attraction won’t work.” Perhaps someone should tell that to Orlando, Florida or even our Canadian neighbors to name a few areas.

While we need to continue our efforts to bring attractions to our downtown tourist area, we can’t neglect other business development that can deliver employment with wages that can allow families to afford to purchase a home and help stabilize neighborhoods. A recent report revealed the following about Niagara Falls:

  • 22% of Niagara falls residents live on incomes below the poverty level;
  • The population of Niagara Falls has declined 9% while the population living in poverty has increased 2%;
  • 56% of all jobs in Niagara Falls are classified as sales, service or clerical and unemployment in Niagara Falls is consistently higher than the Western New York average.

With all that our area has to offer these statistics cannot and should not be acceptable! Today’s industries – technology, health care and logistics, to name a few, need to be prioritized and aggressively sought to locate here. Niagara Falls has all that these industries need to locate in our city but we need to go after these opportunities and not wait for business to find us.

We cannot and should not settle for the explanation that Niagara Falls is not good enough, big enough or any other excuse that diminishes the value of Niagara Falls.

We cannot and should not settle for the explanation that Niagara Falls is not good enough, big enough or any other excuse that diminishes the value of Niagara Falls.

Our commitment to business growth, which is an integral part of establishing financial stability, will require City Hall to breakdown and remove barriers to business development. Reasonable, consistent requirements applied uniformly and designed to encourage business development will change the impression that Niagara Falls is a “tough place to do business.”

Penalties and fees are not long term revenue sources and have a negative impact on the image of the community as a place to bring your business. To be sure we need to emphasize that development is safe and reasonable; and enforcement in this regard is necessary, but it must be done by those who have the necessary skills, training, and/or licensing to speak to business developers in the first instance not harass them once they are here.

A regional approach to business development can expand the opportunities for Niagara Falls and lead to economic growth and a more stable fiscal climate for our city. Niagara Falls, historically, has been a city strategically located for cross border business development, which has not changed.

Furthermore, with an expanding bi-national economy with nearly 3 million people living within a 2 hour drive of Niagara Falls/Town of Niagara and bilateral trade between New York State and Canada estimated at over $30 billion per year, our city needs to create opportunities that take advantage of the assets we possess. Today’s industries (healthcare, life sciences, technology, transportation service/logistics) are the greatest cross border economic opportunities available and, by acting regionally, Niagara Falls can elevate itself as a market for these new emerging business opportunities and the jobs they create.

Currently there are over 700 Canadian-owned companies operating in New York State and the number continues to grow year after year. These companies are currently responsible for nearly 73,000 jobs throughout New York State.

It just seems obvious that Niagara Falls, in conjunction with its neighboring communities, should aggressively pursue these opportunities as part of a broader economic strategy.

Niagara Falls will always be a place synonymous with tourist entertainment – from daredevils in barrels to wire walkers. Nevertheless, with a quarter of the city living at or below the federal poverty level we need to provide employment opportunities that can lift people out of poverty. As mayor I will be committed to this economic development growth.

Niagara Falls has always had so much to offer. Working with our neighboring communities to expand the economic opportunities for all of us is just a better way to grow our local economy, provide jobs, giving people hope for the future, and bringing stability to our city finances. I know we can work together to make Niagara Falls better.