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January 18, 2009 - 10:36am

Batavia has significant assets to spur an economic renaissance

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, economic development, business.

Is Batavia well positioned for an economic renaissance? Reading a post on the rural-themed blog the Daily Yonder this morning, I'm thinking the question might very well be yes.

Big rural towns may have even better luck than large cities when it comes to attracting and keeping manufacturing jobs. (It seems the formula for success includes being a home to higher education situated at the crossroads of major highways.) Big towns usually boast health care facilities located inside the city limits, or at least nearby. Having an industrial park within an economic enterprise zone doesn’t hurt either.

Here's are what I see of Batavia's assets:

  • The Harvester/Masse complex, which is ripe for redevelopment.
  • Proximity to key transportation routes, though the Thruway's never ending cycle of toll increases is a problem
  • Train routes already in place
  • The city is well positioned in relation to major water ways, access to the East Coast and the northern Mid-West.
  • Plenty of water.
  • Plenty of electricity, and the ability to generate more
  • Good health care facilities in place
  • Good schools (though no major university)
  • Good, stable workforce
  • Plenty of recreational opportunities for families; interesting, historic locale with easy access to vacation and entertainment spots

The article goes on:

Where big towns fall short is population; they need to draw labor from rather broad areas of the surrounding countryside, perhaps as many as four or five counties large.

Batavia is certainly surrounded by rural counties with additional workers, but the close proximity of Buffalo and Rochester may also be an asset.  The idea of people commuting from those cities to work in Batavia might drive up transportation costs, but Batavia is close enough that it might not be a stretch to imagine people relocating to Genesee County. They would still be close to their friends and families in Rochester or Buffalo, but living in a great community. 

On the other hand, I imagine many people now living in Genesee County and commuting now to Rochester and Buffalo might welcome new job opportunities right in the middle of Batavia.

The biggest negatives facing Batavia, however, remain high taxes and a state government overzealous about regulation and red tape.

Still, with the proper planning and the right effort correctly applied, there's no reason that Batavia can't realize some significant economic growth over the next 10 years.

Dave Olsen
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University of Buffalo qualifies as a major university and is only about 40 minutes to either of their campuses. I agree the tax and regulatory structure in NY State is the biggest holdback to growth. I don't know what it's going to take for Albany to get the message, I've been ranting for so long now even I'm tired of listening to me. All we can do is keep the faith and hope for the light of freedom to shine through. Socialism has never created economic prosperity and it won't here in the United Socialist State of New York either.
Howard B. Owens
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Dave, you make a good point. There's also RIT and U of R to east.
Dave Olsen
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That's true, both very good schools. Also, there are many smaller colleges in both Buffalo and Rochester. We have a pretty good Community College right here as well. Genesee County has a lot to offer as you pointed out. Housing costs are low compared to a lot of the rest of the state, especially the eastern side, and many of the snowstorms pass south and east of us. Good article.
Jerry Buckman
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Howard, unfortunately, all the assets you listed above are available elsewhere in the country without the negatives you identified (high taxes + red tape). Those negatives far outweigh the assets and will continue to slowly kill the region. What solutions exist? Not sure, but they must involve lowering taxes, which would also lower entitlements. Most, I think, would find that unacceptable. WNY is mired in a tough situation, and REALISTIC solutions are still hidden.
Howard B. Owens
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My company relocated to WNY in 2006. Other companies have relocated to WNY or started out here. Jerry, I firmly believe the positives outweigh the negatives. I see three components to business development: 1. Making sure prospective business owners realize the positives outweigh the negatives. WNY is a great place to live and work. 2. Planning and preparation. We need to improve areas like the Harvester area to ensure its attractive to enterprise level businesses. 3. Fostering entrepreneurship. Our greatest asset may be the people who have the desire to start their own businesses and ensuring they have the resources, support and training to get started an be successful. The Mancuso business incubator program is a great asset and a great place to start. I've suggested to Patrick over at the HLOM that his next series on Genesee County should be about entrepreneurs. The county has a rich tradition of internationally successful businesses starting here. We need to tap that same drive and spirit again.
Jerry Buckman
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Howard, you make very good points, and I believe optimism is the way to go. However, if the positives truly outweighed the negatives, the region would not be slowly dying. Can we agree the region is dying? I remember the good old days in Batavia with the factories, railroads, and locally-owned stores all operating. But I left the area in 1979 and have been an annual visitor since. Each visit is like a snapshot; it's easy for me to see what has changed. All those wonderful things I remember were chased out by those negatives we know exist. I fully agree with your first component to business development, but do not clearly see how to REALISTICALLY do it. Help me with that part.
Howard B. Owens
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Jerry, so I come to WNY as a transplant. My home town in El Cajon, Calif. Whenever I visit there, I think, "Man, has this place gone downhill or what?" It's become a real stinker of a town. Despite my roots there and how much it was once such a huge part of my life, and even with friends and family still there, I could never live there again. I came to WNY, and Batavia especially, and see lots of vibrancy. It's not a dying region, to me. It's a region and a city in transition. It has a great and probably more prosperous past, but that doesn't mean it can't have a great future. Because I don't know Batavia as you once knew it, I don't miss the things you do. I regret downtown was destroyed by urban renewal. I wish some of Genesee County's great manufacturing businesses were still in place. But I also see all the shop owners working hard to help the local economy. I meet great people who are both transplants and third- and fourth-generation residents who love their community. I know of people making substantial business investments in the community. I see room for growth and positive assets to build on. Seeing it and wishing it and wanting it aren't the same thing as making it happen, but I hope one role The Batavian can play is to bring the community together, bring people together, shed light on issues and needs to spur action and optimism.
neil young
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Why did we spend the money on increasing the length of the runway at the airport to 5500 feet? Was it just because the money was available? Also why spend the money on a large retiling job this past fall, just to keep a few skydivers from getting soggy feet once a year?? Somebody in this town needs to look at a tape of the air shows from 1995 and 1996 to see the potential to bring in a great number of people, I'm sorry but that summer in the city is a joke. The air show is a great way to attract a wealthy and diverse mix of people. If nobody from the chamber of commerce thought enough to buy a copy of those tapes you can rent mine from me just like Netflix.
John Roach
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The private group that ran the air show moved their whole oranginzation to Elmira, NY and the airport there. Not much we could do about that. If a private group wants to go someplace else, you can not blame the Chamber. Do your really think the Chamber didn't do everything they could to keep the airshow here?
neil young
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So what I am getting from your opinion is there can never be another air show. There are air shows all over the country, so there must be more than one org. putting them on!!
Daniel Jones
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I'm not John, so I'll speak for my own part. There could be an air show, but the group that wanted to do one here simply decided to move. Perhaps it could be something that the County Legislature puts some focus on.
Lori Ann Santini
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Hi Neil, You are right, the airshow did creat a tremendous influx of people into Genesee County. Unfortunately, it moved to Elmira because of the pull of two racing brothers. It subsequently closed up shop because they couldn't pull in the crowd they needed. We have every conceivable need available in order to make it worth the while to any sponsor of the show. Location for one is A plus. Right off the Thruway, between two large cities that pull in huge crowds of their own for shows. Plenty of hotel, food and entertainment accomodations, and people to staff the event. Summer in the City could be an even bigger draw in conjunction to the event. The City could also consider a Taste of Batavia event like Rochester and Buffalo have. There are lots of possiblities. I moved to Genesee County because of my job and the atmosphere. I love that I don't even have to leave the county to be able to buy anything I want. I can't even tell you when I shopped outside of the county. Kudos to the growth of businesses in this county. Keep up the good work. Bring the Air Show back. I will even volunteer at it again.
Timothy Paine
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Howard is right. I'm trying to find the article I read several years ago in either Business Weekly or Business and Industry. It listed western NY as a desirable location, especially for manufacturing. It stated the first two things needed are power and water. Taxes and workforce are much farther down the list then most people think. The example they gave was S. California. No matter how much money you were willing to spend, water and power were limited. They stated that high taxes weren't considered a big issue since nearly every community would offer big breaks to get the company there. Workforce will always show up if jobs are available. We have housing that is affordable to buy, however, that's where our biggest problem lies. It's cheap to buy here but expensive to maintain because of property taxes and ridiculously high school taxes. Still on their scale WNY ranked in the top three. They didn't assign an actual numbered ranking, just the three future best spots. They claimed the hardest thing to supply in the future is WNY's best asset, an unlimited fresh water supply. It's easier to ship power some where than water. I will try to find the article if I can.
John Roach
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Neil, The Summer in the City Committee is always looking for ideas and help. I expect you will call and sign up, right? I liked the airshow, most of us did. But what's your plan? The original group left for Elmira. No new group has wanted to come here with an air show in Niagara Falls and in Rochester also.
Richard Gahagan
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Harvester Center, Renaissance, Industrial Power House Square, Swan Masse Village, Central Corridor, and Centre are all very nice carefully selected words but these words don't fool anyone into being optimistic. You can call it what you want, but everyone knows what it really is.
Howard B. Owens
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Yes, not matter what you call it, it spell o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y.
neil young
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Planes Trains and Automobiles, if you combine the three you have everything you need to attract everyone. There is one of the finest railroad museums in the country right down route 63 in Medina. They also offer train rides out to Lockport that I have been on and a huge display of fire artifacts. Lori I like the way you think.
Batavia Busines...
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John Roach: You are correct, the Batavia Business Improvement District "Summer in the City" Committee who took over the former Wing Ding does like new ideas and especially volunteers to implement them. Yes, it would be great to have back the air show - however the BID, which is a non-profit organization - not affilated with the City of Batavia in anyway) has limited financial resources. It's mission to revitalize and promote downtown Batavia. The BID already sponsors/hosts Jackson Square, Summer in the City, Christmas in the City and other activities in the downtown district. If Neil Young would like to volunteer to raise funds and help in arranging the air show that would be wonderful- The BID SITC committee would welcome him and anyone else. As far as a "Taste of Batavia." That has been discussed numerous times and what it takes again are volunteers willing to help (rather than just suggest ideas). Each year the BID SITC committee contacts via letter and forms most of the restaurants and eateries in downtown Batavia, the City of Batavia and around the County to participate. We get a very very very few responses. The "Summer in the City" Festival every August attracts over 4,000 people to downtown Batavia. Over forty food and other types of vendors attend this event. Plus, last year we had almost 300 cars and motorcycles for the Car Cruise. If it is a joke according to Neil Young then maybe he should participate and make changes - it is always easy to critize. The SITC committee is made up of about 10-12 hard working citizens and if others would like to join they are certainly welcome. Just call the BID at 585-344-0900 or visit our website at wwwwdowntownbataviany.com
neil young
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Hey Burkel is that you? Tell John Roach not to get his pantyhose all in a bunch, my original question was about the airport, and had nothing to do with the summer in the city which I have attended every year. I'll volunteer if Lori does and I don't have to work with John, at least she seems to have a sense of humor.
JT Hunt
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take out all the batavia red lights and replace them with traffic circles! when not wrecking, folks can spend all day circling the city! i sure do miss WNY genius. ;)
John Roach
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It’s a shame that after all the hard work by BID, the 5 Republicans on City Council have submitted a budget proposal that will take enough money away from city celebrations and events that it might kill the Summer/Christmas in the City.

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