Weekly Feature

2007-02-21 / Business

Amherst Chamber of Commerce unveils 2007 legislative agenda

Dennis Elsenbeck Dennis Elsenbeck The Amherst Chamber of Commerce recently unveiled its 2007 legislative agenda highlighting the organization's local, state and federal priorities.

The local agenda focuses on Sustainable Amherst - a community initiative spearheaded by the Chamber that is studying the implementation of various recommendations outlined in the town's 2005 Comprehensive Master Plan, which was officially adopted by the town board in 2007.

The state agenda, "Unshackle Upstate," is a collaboration with various business groups and organizations that is urging for policy changes to improve the economic competitiveness in Upstate. Also, the state agenda focuses on brownfield redevelopment and hydropower allocation.

The federal focus is supporting the Town of Amherst in advocating for funding for water and sewer infrastructure upgrades and enhancements to improve efficiencies and mitigate flooding in problem areas of the town.

"If there is one thing that stands out in our agenda, it is the simple fact that all these initiatives are part of a collaborate effort with other community groups and organizations and most importantly as it pertains to our local agenda, the taxpayers of the Town of Amherst," said, Dennis Elsenbeck, Amherst Chamber chairman and vice president of business services at National Grid. "We look forward to working with our elected officials at all levels of government to achieve as many of these initiatives as possible."

Sustainable Amherst will be comprised of three councils - land use, economic development and national resources/environment - with representatives respectively from the public sector, civic/community and business. Each council will develop recommendations to town government for implementing various public policy initiatives outlined in the town's Comprehensive Master Plan.

"Sustainable Amherst will be critically important in developing consensus recommendations in order to find the correct balance between high quality, sustainable economic development while, at the same time, addressing quality of life issues, such as flooding and sinking homes," David Flynn, the Chamber's Advocacy Council chairman and a partner at Phillips Lytle LLP, said.

The key components from Unshackle Upstate include advocating for reform of workers' compensation, lowering the threshold of when the W.I.C.K.S. Law would kick in on construction projects, the Scaffold Law regarding fault when injuries occur at a workplace construction site, the Taylor Law (municipal and public employee contracts) and Medicaid reforms.

"What is unique about our agenda is the fact the price tag for these various initiatives is minimal, especially compared to other organization's financial requests to the federal and state delegations," Colleen DiPirro, Amherst Chamber president and CEO, said. "To the contrary, if we are successful in fulfilling the objectives outlined in Sustainable Amherst as well as success with the Unshackle Upstate agenda, we will be improving the business climate, which will create new jobs and new investment for our community, as well as support our high quality of life."

As the Chamber looks forward to 2007 it will do so with a new chairman. Elsenbeck has been a chamber member since 2003 and a 20-year employee with National Grid. He has served on several chamber committees in preparation for this position, he said.

He said the chamber will stick with its agenda and try to build momentum to achieve its goals.

"The Amherst Chamber is historically one of the more creative business groups in the area,' Elsenbeck said.

One of his plans is to create an atmosphere where ideas are welcome, adding that even though everyone doesn't agree on every idea it starts a dialogue.

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