Local Business Owners Rally for Canalside Project

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

January 26, 2012 Updated Jan 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - Members and supporters of Buffalo First, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for local businesses, rallied outside the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation's headquarters in the Queen City Thursday. The group says it remains optimistic about the future of the waterfront and the Canalside project, but believes the success of it will rely heavily on local businesses. Advocates say Buffalo's Waterfront is too unique to bring in big box retailers, so they'd like to see a commitment by the ECHDC to secure 50% of Canalside to locally owned businesses.

"We'd like them to sign an agreement and make local businesses an anchor tenant," said Buffalo First Executive Director Sarah Bishop. "We'd like them to sign a paper today that says 50 percent of businesses are local on the waterfront."

The ECHDC released this statement to Eyewitness News:

"Supporting local businesses and creating local jobs has long been one of the guiding principles of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC). We are proud to note the local companies, organizations and individuals that have been retained as part of our mission to revitalize Western New York's waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region's legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty. In addition, we continue to work with 90 local community members on groups tasked with activating the Inner Harbor, Outer Harbor and Buffalo River."

Buffalo First also presented petitions to the ECHDC for the measure, and Bishop says the group looks forward to speaking with representatives about the proposal. They hope the proposal will be an item for discussion at the next ECHDC meeting which is scheduled for February 8th.