As a resident of the Buffalo, NY area and the Niagara Region as a whole, I have been very very much interested in working to promote this area to others. It really got started in the 1970s when I worked for the now-defunct Airborne Freight Corporation. in the late 1970s. Offices, contractors, and customers from around the nation would call requiring information. If it was winter they would “always” inquire as to the snow. Our staff would always give them the “Buffalo bashing” they figured the person on the other end wanted to hear: We are buried. It is windy. It is freezing. You can’t drive. Blah blah blah. Yet, when you called people in other norther cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Winnipeg, etc. you did not hear an attack on their community.
One Jan. 23, 1993 there was a reasonable article in the Los Angeles Times about the community, the Buffalo Bills and the Super bowl., in the Los Angeles Times that said this this to say:
Buffalo is America’s dartboard, the darling of stand-up comedians.
One of its problems is that it’s in New York, but it’s not New York .
But the concerns also go much deeper. Beset by bad weather and bad economic times that stretched over many years after the loss of its steel industry, Buffalo is a convenient target for bad jokes and one-liners.
“Johnny Carson caused a lot of our problems,” Buffalo Mayor James D. Griffin said. “If people want an easy joke, they mention our snow.
“What they don’t talk about is our fair housing, our waterfront area, our beautiful lake and the great country of Canada, which is a neighbor right on our front door. We have arts, we have culture, everything every other city has, and maybe more.”
“We had one big snowstorm in 1977 and we’ve had to live with it for years. The Bills are a way to show this city is a winner.” Buffalo businessman Bill Heussler.
So I became an poor unpaid citizen advocate and continue to be an advocate for this region including both sides of the border. But, I do have to be honest. I’ve gotten so frustrated with the conservative, parochialism, paternalism, clannishness, territorial, inside connected, narrow minded politicalness and balkanized attitude which continues to dominate culture in this community that on many occasions I had considered fleeing for more an area more positive.
My friend Dan Ward, former Amherst Town Supervisor and Town Board Member, was well aware of my attitude. In Sept. of 2011 he introduced me to my associate Jeanne Gittler, Esq. This took place at a public meeting of the Western New York Economic Development Agency held at Niagara County Community College we had attended.
Since that meeting we set about trying to find out what was happening of a positive nature and what was not being done. Here is major highlights.
1. We’ve had personal meeting with Alisa D. Colatarci, Chief of Staff to NYS Senator George Maziarz about Niagara Falls International Airport development.
2. We were invited by Sen. Maziarz Office to attend a press conference at Niagara Falls International Airport announcing a $1 million grant from the Seneca Nation of Indians and Seneca Niagara Casino for the formation of a Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders Group.
3. We met with William Vanecek, NFTA Director of Aviation, and Kim Minkel, NFTA Executive Director, regarding local airline services and international tourism.
4. We me with Michael Casale, Susan Langdon and Andrea Klyczek of the Niagara Country Center for Economic Development and presented information regarding Stockton, CA’s commercial air cargo export fruit processing center and the potential for apple, dairy, poultry export direct from Niagara Falls International.
5. We were told that we would be invited to become members of the NFIA Stakeholders Committee. (8 months later that has not happened).
6. We have met several times with the staffs of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Kathy Hochul regarding federal assistance in the maximization of NFIA for tourism and import/export.
7. Jeanne has had several meetings with Pascal Cohen, Senior Manager Aviation Marketing for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority at Niagara Falls International Airport regarding air travel and tourist potential. Each time I was unavailable but have had numerous email exchanges.
8. Met with management from 14 hotels in Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York regarding increased tourism potential if they marketing their properties through Allegiant Airlines which services primarily Florida bound travelers from Niagara Falls International Airport. At the time a Florida resident was unable to book a hotel travel package to the Niagara Falls area on return flights. Six hotels in Canada and two hotels in the USA are now marketed by Allegiant.
9. Met with Len O’Conner, Airport Manager, Niagara District Airport, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario. Discussed activities surrounding attracting smaller Canada regional airlines to serve the Niagara Region market.
10. Presented Robert Odawi Porter, former President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, with the idea of Seneca participation in attempting to attract Canadian First Nation owned airlines to service their communities and province’s with flights to Niagara Falls. There are currently no direct flights to the Niagara Region from any Canadian city. Regional Canadian airlines owned by First Nation’s People are Air Creebec (Quebec), Air Inuit (Quebec) and First Air (Ontario)
11. Communication has been exchanged with John Putnam of the National Parks Service, Eric Woodward of the U.S. National Commission on UNESCO, Dominique Morisse of the UNESCO World Heritage Center in Paris France, and John Callaghan of the NYS Canal Corporation. There has been no response during the past 5 months from NYS Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Brian Higgins and Rep. Louise Slaughter.
12. Have exchanged correspondence with David Edwards of Inland Waterways International concerning preservation of the Erie Canal. Found out that England has been success with turning its canals over to operation by charitable trusts. Their canal system is growing and restoration has been an on going process.
13. Have attempted to meet with the Byron Brown, Mayor of Buffalo. Got to speak with the police officer stationed outside his door, left a message but received no reponse.
14. Attended meetings with the Buffalo Sister City Committee and the Buffalo-Dortmund Sister City to find out what they are doing to promote travel, tourism and business relations between Western New York and the Sister-Cities. You can never find any information relevant to these groups and their activities.
15. And finally, made contact only 4 days ago with Jerry Staples, Vice-President Air Service Marketing and Development at Halifax International Airport Authority. I got a favorable response to an inquiry regarding an attempt to develop a shared route from from Niagara Falls/Halifax to Europe.
And so the year ends. Happy New Year and let us hope and work towards a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013 for both sides of our historic border lands..