Modified: April 8, 2020 4:12pm

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The Erie County Business Task Force has been formed to provide immediate and targeted business assistance to local businesses struggling to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With representatives from a broad swath of local businesses, governmental agencies, and community organizations, the Task Force will begin by collecting data from businesses to form a better picture of how the coronavirus has impacted their operations and what actions might be needed. Information gathered will assist in developing short- and long-term policy and procedural recommendations at the local, state and federal levels and will help to identify the workforce needs that businesses will have in order to succeed in the present and future COVID-19 economy.

“Local businesses are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and this Task Force will be critical to identifying what they need to survive today and succeed into the future,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “In addition to getting real time information from local businesses on the issues they are facing, we will work with partners to identify financing assistance, develop relief periods on loan repayments, and help businesses navigate through information and guidance coming from the state and federal levels.”

The Erie County Business Task Force will be co-chaired by ECIDA Chairwoman Brenda McDuffie and the CEO of manufacturer Zehnder Rittling, Scott Pallotta. First steps for the Task Force include the release of a Buffalo Niagara Partnership survey to collect data and information from COVID-impacted businesses to help inform the Task Force on what actions are needed. This will be completed between Tuesday, April 14 and Thursday, April 30.

"The task force gives Erie County the opportunity to respond to the economic devastation that COVID-19 has caused by getting businesses back up and running and to help employees return to work. We will play a vital role to ensure WNY is stronger and better than ever," said Co-Chair Brenda McDuffie. “We will utilize feedback from business owners and their employees to shape our actions and plans to determine what's most important for them to survive these unprecedented times. Their feedback is critical in developing strategies to move forward as we overcome this global pandemic and restore our local economy."

“Our goal is to help businesses navigate these uncertain times so that they are able to re-open and get back up to full speed once it is safe to do so,” said Co-Chair Scott Pallotta. “We’ve assembled a great team of both public sector and private sector leaders who will be reaching out to businesses across Western New York for input. I look forward to these conversations and to recommending meaningful action.”

In addition to Brenda McDuffie other members of the Task Force from the governmental/organization side include Dottie Gallagher of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership; Richard Lipsitz of the WNY Area Labor Federation; Peter Cammarata of BUDC; Amanda Mays of Empire State Development; Richard Cummings of the Black Chamber of Commerce; Brendan Mehaffy and Becky Gandour of the City of Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning; Carolyn Bright of the NYS Department of Labor; Russell Weaver of Cornell University; Geoffrey Szymanski of the Workforce Investment Board; Howard Johnson of the Erie County Legislature; Tom Kucharski of Invest Buffalo Niagara; Susan A. McCartney of the Small Business Development Center; Donna Littlefield of Buffalo Niagara Realtors Association; and Craig Turner of Buffalo-Niagara World Trade Center.

On the business side, in addition to Scott Pallotta membership in the Task Force includes Steven Briggs of Dynabrade Inc.; Art Wingerter of Univera Healthcare; Leyna Lydell of Dynabrade, Inc.; Julie Snyder of Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY; Robert Zak of Merchants Insurance; Laura Zaepfel of Uniland Development; Michael Keating and Michele Mehaffy of Wegmans; Kevin Cavalieri of M&T Bank; Ken Kujawa of National Grid; Rob Free of Be Our Guest representing the NYS Restaurant Association; Tracy Jordan-Cardwell of TJC PR Consultants; Kelly Kronbeck of Imagination Station; Huseyin Taran of the Buffalo Marriott-Harbor Center; Cory Haqq of Urban Equity Management Group LLC; Jim Gibson and Kathleen Sautter of Tops Markets.