Happy New Year to all as we begin what promises to be another year of growth in Erie County, building on the successes of the past two years. In 2014 the County will commence several new initiatives to strengthen Erie County economically and culturally, initiatives first outlined in my “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” address. These smart investments and strategic partnerships in such sectors as economic development, energy, tourism, and public art will allow us to leverage resources and build our international profile while creating a more dynamic and diverse county.
For example, in 2013 we witnessed increased Canadian and international business interest in Erie County. Welded Tube, Outdoor Portable Solutions, and Gracious Living are three Canadian firms making multimillion dollar investments, bringing hundreds of new jobs, and taking advantage of our unparalleled transportation access to build their “Made in the U.S.A.” footprint here in Erie County. We believe this is just the beginning, and the 2014 Budget includes funding to establish an Erie County Economic office in the Greater Toronto Area, a business outreach device that has never existed but will serve to make more foreign investors aware of the favorable economic climate we offer. Our investment of $100,000 will raise our international profile considerably and could potentially attract millions of dollars in future business, meaning more jobs and a more robust economy in years to come.
Energy efficiency across Erie County takes on a new meaning in 2014, with an Energy Officer in place to help reduce county costs on electricity and other fuels, lessen our impact on the environment, and manage our energy future. This position, made possible with assistance from our partners at National Grid, represents a significant step forward in how your county government, much like your home, assesses energy usage and makes improvements wherever possible. Energy efficiency means increased savings, which is good news for taxpayers.
The Budget also looks to the future of our tourism industry, investing in cultural tourism and development as well as in a needs analysis study for a new convention center. Our world-class cultural assets are a key driver of our economy, annually bringing thousands of tourists to our area and cementing our growing reputation as a cultural beacon. In 2014 we will work on shaping the future of that industry with the convention center needs analysis study, which will provide clear insights into whether we need a new center, and if so, what we need in a modern center to attract, retain, and boost tourism.
Finally, an exciting partnership with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery makes possible a new public art initiative that will see artwork placed around the county for all residents to enjoy. Working in conjunction with the Albright Knox, Erie County’s first-ever Public Arts Curator will be charged with bringing great art to our communities, enriching our quality of life and reinforcing our status as a region of primary cultural significance in the Northeast.
We have much to celebrate and anticipate in 2014!