By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — CHILDS — The annual gathering of business leaders and politicians presented an opportunity for both sides to remark on a year of progress and look ahead to the actions that will impact the local economy in 2013.
The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Luncheon brought out dozens of local leaders and a quartet of Albany officials — State Sen. George Maziarz, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin and Michelle Barson, a representative of the New York State Business Council.
The event also focused on the accomplishments of the business owners, job creators and entrepreneurs whose work is improving Orleans County.
”You are the good men and women who this a great place to live,” attorney Nathan Pace, the event’s moderator, said in his introduction.
County Legislature Chairman David Callard could pinpoint each area of growth — literally. His map showing ‘points of progress’ in each spot of new businesses, ongoing and announced projects revealed a bounty of business growth.
”Things are happening in Orleans County,” Callard said, before recounting benefits of projects like Pawlak’s Save-A-Lot in Holley, Tractor Supply and Ace Hardware in Medina and the Orleans Community Healthcare Center in Albion.
More work is planned for 2013 to ensure the residential sector gets the same boost.
“We’ve started a housing initiative and are developing a countywide program — we can’t have values continue to slide,” said Callard, who noted that infrastructure improvements are also needed. “We have old sewers (in villages like Holley) ... we can’t allow it to deteriorate any more.”
The message from the state representatives focused largely on the details of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Maziarz said he’s pleased that the budget doesn’t increase taxes or fees, but added that the “Billion for Buffalo” ought to be spent beyond the Queen City.
“Power proceeds have been put in an economic development fund, I want major projects in Orleans County,” Maziarz said. “The first project from that source should be here.”
The Governor’s other major initiative, a recently passed gun-control legislation, came under fire from the three Republicans, each of whom voted against the bill.
“It was an amazing view of disfunction returning to Albany,” Hawley said of the gun control bill’s secrecy and swift passage. “Forget the merits of the bill. They way it was presented, with the people shut out (of the process), reeked.”
Corwin, whose district was altered to include Shelby, said there would be benefits to having two like-minded representatives in Albany.
“Niagara and Orleans have shared interests,” said Corwin, whose district is centered around Clarence and Lockport. “The advantage is on an issue like (rural broadband access), you’ll have two (voices in the) assembly. We’re of the same ilk on business issues.”
The state representatives field questions on a variety of business topics, from wine in grocery stores to hydrofacking for natural gas — those efforts have been slowed, the reps sensed, due to Cuomo’s disinterest.
They agreed that one issue that has Cuomo’s attention is infrastructure. Getting funding for bridges, roads and utilities could follow.
“It was a positive that Steve Hawley took him to the canal collapse,” Maziarz said. “The Governor saw it, he realizes the importance of investing (in the canal). We need to get Regional Economic Development Council funding to the canal.”
“My hope is that we’ll get more projects done,” Corwin said.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.