Last month I delivered my 2015 State of the County address, which provided an opportunity to spotlight many of the positive developments happening in Erie County and outline my administration’s plan for the future. While our economy is improving, unemployment is down, and a positive new attitude is growing locally, it’s imperative that we act now to ensure that this rising tide lifts all boats and that all residents have opportunities to be a part of our success.
There was much good news to report, including the dramatic decrease in unemployment here in Erie County. When I took office in January 2012, unemployment was at 8.9%, but that number had shrunken to 5.5% by January 1, 2015 and was lower than the state and national averages. Paired with that good news is tremendous private-sector job growth, as that sector has gained more than 14,000 jobs in the past three years. These encouraging signs are also bolstered by modest but steady increases in population, as for the first time in decades more people are coming to Erie County than are leaving. Taken together, these trends underscore the transformation that is taking place here.
That transformation is being advanced by multiple successes from my administration’s “Initiatives for a Smart Economy,” our 64-point economic development plan that spans 12 key economic sectors and outlines actionable plans to build a better Erie County. While the plan was only introduced in spring 2013, many of the initiatives are completed or well underway. Some of the notable successes are the redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel site, the creation of a WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable, and the completion of a lease with the Buffalo Bills, among many others. Erie’s economic engine is indeed revving again.
Elsewhere, the opening of the Erie County Health Mall was a major success for our area in 2014. The site has had over 10,000 visitors since opening its doors last May, and our health care partners there are expanding services to meet the demand. The address also highlighted the fact that my administration strengthened the county’s financial position to such a point the 2015 budget included a modest tax decrease and our credit rating is now “AA-“, the highest it has been in more than a decade. These are just a few of the positive things happening now in Erie County.
While our economy is improving, and new businesses are locating here, the address also made clear that now is the time to build for the future. Erie County’s greatest asset is its residents. We need to ensure that as many of them as possible are taking part in our growth. My recently-released health and human services plan, “Initiatives for a Stronger Community,” details 49 ways in which Erie County government will take the lead to help those in need lift themselves and their families up our societal ladder and improve their lives. You can see both the economic plan and the health and human services plan at the Erie County website.