Weekly Feature



2017-08-09 / Business

Helping advocate, push for positive changes

COLLEEN DIPIRRO
Chamber President

Advocacy — advancing the regional agenda through business leadership — was one of the major objectives identified in our recent Strategic Plan.

The Amherst Chamber of Commerce has a Public Policy Council that is devoted to identifying and vetting issues that impact the prosperity of the residents and businesses in our region. Chaired by Bobby Mills from Daemen College and Michael Pietkiewicz from Erie Community College, the group meets monthly to discuss the impact of public policy on our members. We encourage our members to bring to our attention issues that are important to them. Our council members represent large and small businesses from a variety of industries and all political parties. We are nonpartisan and view each issue relative to our ability to have some level of control over outcomes.

Our small business members sometimes don’t see the value of these efforts. They are dedicated to growing their firms and are so often consumed with their day-to-day operations that they give little thought to the regulations that preclude them from reaching their goals. That is why our dedication to this process is so valuable to them. We have their back. When the state wanted to remove the 716 area code from the Buffalo Niagara region and award it to Monroe County, the Amherst Chamber led a fight to retain it and won. Think of the cost and hassle of having to change your letterhead, business cards and other items because of a phone number change.

Sometimes we join in with other business groups to advance our position on specific public policy such as workers’ compensation reform and UB 2020 funding. Together, with our partners, we effect very positive change. Our larger firms see great tangible value in our advocacy efforts. Given our strong working relationship with our public officials at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle, we are able to broker solutions to our members’ challenges. While we don’t guarantee outcomes, we do provide the valuable service of being able to bring both sides together to mobilize a dialogue. Another benefit brought to our members as a result of our advocacy is our public officials briefings. We have hosted Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and state Assemblyman Ray Walter, along with our town supervisor and Town Board members, to name a few. These small gatherings give our members the opportunity to meet their representatives and share their opinions and concerns.

Many of our public officials also use the Amherst Chamber as a vehicle for determining the views of our members via surveys or these meetings. As I write this, I am reflecting on some of the many challenges facing our community and our country. From health care reform to land use, from diversity and inclusion to workforce development, we have a lot of topics that deserve our attention.

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