Weekly Feature

2017-11-08 / Front Page

Colleagues, community remember former IDA leader

Allen’s life marked by love of music, drum corps
by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

Allen Allen James J. Allen, the former head of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, died at his East Amherst home on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017.

Mr. Allen, who retired from his position as executive director of the IDA in the spring after a 37-year run, was 68 years old.

Leaders in the community have been saddened by the loss of Mr. Allen, who has been credited for his devoted work in his field and for development in the Town of Amherst.

“Jim was a visionary who stayed true to his core concepts relative to economic development,” said Colleen DiPirro, CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

She said Mr. Allen applied much of his knowledge to growing the economic base in Amherst.

“Jim and I started our careers together and, while we disagreed many times throughout the years, we shared a passion for the quality of life and economic opportunity in our wonderful town,” DiPirro said.

She added that he was a “loyal and devoted father and husband and the world was a better place because of Jim Allen.”

Joann Piasecki, who worked with Mr. Allen for 27 years at the IDA, said they became great friends throughout their years as colleagues.

“Jim was my boss and mentor, but through our many years together, he became my friend,” Piasecki said. “I will remember that Jim always saw the cup as half full. His optimism in life was boundless, especially during adverse times. It was not always smooth sailing here at the Amherst IDA but working with Jim made it an adventure.”

Piasecki added that she and Mr. Allen, a native of Rochester, served together on the North East Color Guard Circuit board of directors.

Color guard, music and marching bands were some of the pastimes Mr. Allen enjoyed throughout his life.

David Mingioia, the IDA’s current executive director and CEO said he enjoyed working with Mr. Allen. Mingioia recalled him as an avid lover of many genres of music.

“Right around now, he would begin playing Christmas music and truly loved this time of year,” Mingioia said. “He was man with a big heart.”

Mr. Allen graduated from the Aquinas Institute, where he played football and boxed. He then graduated from St. John Fisher College in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Mr. Allen served as president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce from 1973 to 1979. In 1979, he began his lengthy tenure as head of the Amherst IDA.

He earned a master’s degree in urban planning from the University at Buffalo in the late 1990s. Mr. Allen then taught in UB’s department of urban and regional planning from 1999 to the present. He also taught at UB’s Law School and, briefly, at Canisius College.

He served on the board of directors of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and of the Western New York Business Development Fund. Mr. Allen was a member of the New York Economic Development Council, International Economic Development Council, National Association of Office and Industrial Parks, Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association.

He played trumpet and bugle, starting in his youth, with drum and bugle corps such as The Dutchtown Ramblers, The Statesmen, and the Rochester Crusaders. His drum corps career was highlighted by many years with the Mighty St. Joes, a corps headquartered in Batavia.

Mr. Allen also helped to create judging criteria and protocol for drum and bugle corps, scholastic marching bands and color guards throughout the United States and Canada, and continued to judge marching arts competitions from the 1970s to this past year.

He was inducted into the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in 2011 for his long service as a coach and judge.

Piasecki added that she was honored to stand beside him as a Hall of Fame member of the NECGC.

Additionally, Mingioia said Mr. Allen was always looking toward the next development or redevelopment project that could enhance the Town of Amherst.

“Long before repurposing and adaptive reuse became part of the lexicon, he was spearheading efforts to start redevelopment in Amherst,” he said. “His fingerprints are on many tremendous achievements in the town.”

Mr. Allen is survived by his wife of 48 years, the former Linda Viele. The couple met when they were teenagers through the drum and bugle corps program in Batavia.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Lindsay Allen and Jamie Allen-Powers; a son, Michael; and four siblings, Tom Allen, Donny Allen, Karen McCoy and Nancy Fiorino.

A funeral was held Sunday, Nov. 5, at Amigone Funeral Home’s Amherst Chapel.

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