Niagara Gazette

April 30, 2013

GUEST VIEW: City council candidate has economic development plan for the Falls

By Andy Touma
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Economic development is the number one topic on the minds of Niagara Falls residents. One vocal resident said to me at a local establishment, “We need more jobs in Niagara Falls!” Another complained, “My daughter had to move down south because she couldn’t find work after graduating from college.” Yet another resident wondered how Niagara Falls, being such a jewel, had gotten to this point? I have a comprehensive economic plan that will transform the fiscal conversations from negative to positive and churn out a comeback that will make all of us proud to live in Niagara Falls.

My major concern is the development of an effective strategy to lengthen the average stay of the eight million visitors who travel to Niagara Falls each year. We are a city dependent upon tourism and hospitality. As such, we need to conduct and appraise our tourism experiences for visitor readiness, appeal, safety and opportunities. We need to evaluate our visitor strategies to attract repeat visits and to optimize our tourism development, marketing and economic success.

In addition, we need to build on the momentum of the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute to make the corridor between the state park and Seneca Niagara Casino a destination for food, beverage, and specialty shops. This can be accomplished by working with USA Niagara Development Corporation to identify local entrepreneurs who are interested in a “boutique” approach to retail development. Another aspect of my plan is to convince USA Niagara to support and promote the economic revitalization of the entire city, including the

businesses on Buffalo Avenue in LaSalle, Niagara Street, Niagara Falls Boulevard, Pine Avenue, Hyde Park Boulevard and others. The businesses on Buffalo Avenue from 56th Street to Cayuga Drive, for example, desperately need better roads and a way to take capitalize on their proximity to the Niagara River.

In order for Niagara Falls to become a dynamic city, we need a well-trained labor force. Computer skills and specialized training are critical to obtaining a job in today’s workforce. I propose that we partner with the Niagara Falls City School District, Niagara County Community College, Niagara County Employment and Training and Niagara University to train and prepare our workforce for 21st century jobs. Educators must ensure that future workers have the right skills while policy makers may have to set new educational standards.

We must have modern and efficient physical infrastructures — roads, bridges, highways, energy systems, telecommunication, airport, train station — that facilitate international trade and investment. If we are going to attract businesses, we need to give increasing attention to cutting-edge infrastructures that make business operations more responsive to international trends.

Manufacturing is making a comeback, and outsourcing jobs to Japan and China for example, doesn’t look quite as attractive as it did many years ago. Niagara Falls needs to be prepared to take advantage of the resurgence of manufacturing. The train station is a prime example. The rail project will create 200 full-time and about 400 indirect full-time jobs, with 50 full-time skilled laborers on the project every day for the next 2 years. We need to compete for new energy infrastructure projects, including wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.

I want to induce a more cooperative dialogue with Niagara Falls Redevelopment to determine its specific needs and what it believes are the essential economic factors necessary to begin development on its land holdings.

I would propose and lead the charge to amend the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law to permit municipalities to take title to all abandoned real or commercial property. I will eliminate the blight and resurrect our neighborhoods.

Finally, as your councilman I will work collaboratively with the other council members, the mayor and other state and local representatives to assure these policy changes become reality I will be an advocate for investment in the city from all sources, including higher tiers of government. To move our city forward, I will keep taxes low and expand our tax base through the creation of affordable housing. My experiences with our community have allowed me to understand the resources we need to move our city in a better direction. Our city needs results, not empty promises and disconnected council members. I will continue to listen to you and be the voice you deserve.

Andy Touma is a candidate for Niagara Falls City Council