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3/01/12: Poloncarz Announces Appointments to Erie County IDA


Experienced Group Brings Strong Business, Governmental and International Trade Credentials to Agency

ERIE COUNTY, NY Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today, with the support of Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, announced three appointees to posts on the Board of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (“ECIDA”).  The appointees, Mrs. Brenda McDuffie, Mr. Chris T. Johnston, and the Hon. John J. LaFalce, will be welcomed at the ECIDA’s March meeting.

“I am honored to appoint these three outstanding individuals to serve on the Board of the ECIDA,” said Poloncarz. “As County Executive, one of my top priorities is to promote job creation and economic development in Erie County. They bring a wealth of business, governmental and international trade experience to the table, and share my vision of strengthening local business and bringing new jobs to Erie County by leveraging our strategic international border with Canada.  I look forward to working with them and the other board members to create a more streamlined, sustainable and efficient approach to economic development in Erie County.”

“With these appointments there is a new feeling of diversity and energy at the ECIDA,” added Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant. “With their extensive business and governmental experience, I am sure they will be valuable additions to the board.”

The new appointees are:

The Hon. John J. LaFalce has been a respected figure in the local and national political landscape for over 30 years, serving Western New York in the New York State Senate and Assembly and later in the U.S. Congress from 1975 through 2002.   In Congress, LaFalce served as Chairman of the House Small Business Committee where he authored many of our nation’s small business laws, and as Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, which had jurisdiction over all financial issues, including banks, housing and community development, and international financial institutions.  In 1994, LaFalce founded the Northern Border Caucus, which became the principal focal point for discussing and promoting the Canadian/American bilateral relationship in Congress.  After his retirement from Congress, LaFalce became a member the Senior Advisory Board to the Canadian-American Business Council and is an Honorary Chair of the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance.  LaFalce also has been awarded four honorary doctorate degrees, as well as numerous other awards for his service over the years.   LaFalce is currently the Special Counsel to HoganWillig. 

Mrs. Brenda McDuffie has been President and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League since 1998.  Prior to her work with the League, McDuffie served as the Executive Director for the Buffalo and Erie County Private Industry Council working with businesses to ensure the availability of a high-quality workforce to support regional economic growth. She has also served as the President of the NYS Association of Employment and Training Professionals, and was a member of the steering committee that produced the recommendations for New York State’s future Workforce Development System.  Additionally, she is currently serving as Secretary for the Independent Health Association and has received numerous awards including the Buffalo News Citizen of the Year and the NAACP Community service Award.

Mr. Chris T. Johnston has been President of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara since 2007.  Mr. Johnston’s current responsibilities include the direction of the organization’s new product development and marketing initiatives, such as the very successful introduction of the Import/Export Toolkit and Low Cost Market entry products. He also works closely with the organization’s Board of Directors to craft an overall strategic mission. Other professional experience includes work with the City of Buffalo to streamline the Department of Economic Development; development of import and export compliance programs for corporations in numerous industries while with Thompson Hine LLP; and work as an International Trade Specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC. Mr. Johnston is also an active volunteer, servicing Habitat for Humanity and other community efforts.

ECIDA is a public benefit corporation created in 1970 by an act of the New York State Legislature to promote and assist private sector industrial and business development in order to advance job opportunities and economic growth in Erie County.  The County Executive, in cooperation with the Chair of the Erie County Legislature, has the ability to appoint five members to ECIDA’s Board of Directors, one of which has traditionally been filled with the Legislature Chair themselves. The three appointees join Legislature Chair Grant after her appointment to the board earlier this year.