April 5, 2013
During my State of the County address last month, I noted our community is finally poised to take advantage of our geographic location and natural resources to grow our economy. With regard to geography, Canada is our nation's largest trading partner, and its economic center of Toronto is only 90 miles away from Buffalo. While prior administrations ignored the Canadian market, I believe we can grow our economy by tapping into it – and we are doing so. Welded Tube of Canada is investing $40 million at its new facility on the former Bethlehem Steel site, employing nearly 100 in 3 years, while other smaller Canadian companies like Ameta International, Green Tower Industries and TLC Pet Food just announced they are opening offices in Erie County, creating nearly 20 new jobs.
In my address I also announced I will soon be releasing my administration’s economic development agenda: “Initiatives for a Smart Economy.” In addition to focusing on Canada, the agenda includes making targeted, public subsidies; focusing on a “Blue Economy” to leverage our water-based resources; and a commitment to sustainability through thoughtful land-use planning. More information on these Initiatives will be released on this shortly.
Another key Initiative will be emphasizing the importance of farmland and agricultural production to Erie County. It’s no secret Erie County enjoys a rich agricultural heritage and farming is a critical part of the County’s economic success. Our region yields some of the finest produce in New York State, is blessed with fertile soils, and has access to abundant water resources. We must protect these assets for future generations. To ensure this, my administration is working closely with farmers to guard our natural assets and support our agricultural sector in a number of ways.
For example, I was recently joined by members of the Erie County Farm Bureau and the Erie County Agricultural Farmland Protection Board to announce the completion of the Erie County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan. This plan, developed over the course twenty months, will guide the County’s involvement in agriculture over the next ten years by outlining strategies to protect farmland and improve the viability, sustainability, and marketability of local farms.
These strategies include developing programs to build an educated, trained workforce for local farms and urban agriculture, identifying clusters of parcels with the greatest amount of high-quality soils, establishing “agri-tourism” programs to give more residents exposure to farm life, developing policies that will help farms supply affordable local food to county residents, and informational outreach to local leaders and the public to give them a better idea of the economic impact of farming in Erie County.