A pair of local leaders made a pitch for Canadian firms to invest in the Buffalo Niagara region during a binational business gathering.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Tom Kucharski, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise president and chief executive officer, spoke to members of the Ontario Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada on May 30 at their meeting in Toronto.
Both Poloncarz and Kucharski made their pitch against the backdrop of last week's decision by the Canadian government to close its longstanding downtown Buffalo consulate in August.
"It became a call to action," Kucharski said. "Everyone agreed in light of the cutbacks, we have to find a way to keep the information following between Southern Ontario and the Buffalo Niagara region."
In recent weeks, two Toronto-area firms have decided to open new U.S. operations in the region. Outfront Portable Solutions has agreed to move to Buffalo, creating 47 new jobs. Outfront makes display units for retailers including Tops Friendly Markets and Walmart.
The Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and Empire State Development Corp. are working with Welded Tubing to open a new operation in Lackawanna that could employ at least 150 people.
Poloncarz said one of his top economic priorities is to encourage more local investment by Canadian firms.
"Canada is America's largest trading partner, with nearly $500 billion in goods and services crossing our border each year. I want our relationship to be even stronger," Poloncarz said. "I want them (Canadian firms) to become investors in our community."
Having Poloncarz address the group was a smart move, Kucharski said.
"Mark carried and delivered a strong message," he said.
Kucharski said the meeting, which was attended by approximately 60 business leaders, provided "a good exchange of ideas."
Headquartered in Toronto, the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada promotes the two-way flow of trade and investment between Canada and the U.S. The organization is composed of more than 250 large and small companies interested in the expansion and enhancement of cross-border business opportunities, and strives to promote a positive climate for commerce between the two countries.
Kucharski said he hopes to have a similar meeting in the Buffalo Niagara region this fall.
"We all agreed that we need to meet more frequently," Kucharski said.