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Creating Economic Opportunities for the Community

Frequently Asked Questions

Published April 22, 2013

How will UB help assure that its move downtown benefits residents of McCarley Gardens and the Fruit Belt neighborhood?

As a member of the community, the university knows there are very high expectations for the outcome of UB’s growing presence downtown.  The university is committed to working with all East Side residents to implement its plans and ensure UB’s presence downtown benefits the entire community.

Over the past two years, UB and St. John Fruit Belt Community Development Corp. have held many community meetings with McCarley Gardens residents, East Side community members and the government leaders that serve them. The conversations and joint planning sessions have been ongoing since the contract to sell McCarley Gardens was announced in 2010.

From these conversations and outreach, an Economic Opportunity Panel (EOP) – made up of representatives from UB and Oak-Michigan Housing Development Corp. – developed a set of recommendations for how UB and the corporation could work together to provide residents with better access to jobs and business and educational opportunities created from UB’s growing presence on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Members of the EOP included Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services, UB; Colleen W. Cummings, former executive director, Buffalo Employment and Training Center; June W. Hoeflich, member, UB Council; Brenda W. McDuffie, president and CEO, Buffalo Urban League; Hon. James A.W. McLeod, Buffalo City Court judge; and Paul E. Tesluk, Donald S. Carmichael Professor of Organization and Human Resources, UB School of Management.

How did the Economic Opportunity Panel (EOP) assess the needs of the Fruit Belt community and McCarley Gardens residents?

Over the past year and a half, the Economic Opportunity Panel (EOP), created as a contingency of the McCarley Gardens sale, met regularly to develop recommendations for creating and improving job and educational opportunities for residents of neighborhoods bordering the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The EOP was formed as a means for the church and UB to engage community members, listen to ideas and concerns and, from this information, develop a set of recommendations that may be acted upon by UB and the church. The panel spent more than a year listening to a wide range of community members in a variety of settings.

It is important to note that the EOP was not intended to be a community group. The EOP was a working group of UB and SJBC representatives, charged by the university and church to meet with and gather input from community members, conduct research on the economic needs of the community and then report back their findings and recommendations to the university and church.

The EOP first began meeting with members of the community in December 2011.  One of the first activities of the panel was a meeting and walking tour of the Fruit Belt guided by residents.  During the course of its outreach, the EOP has held several meetings and has met with about 70 community members and community leaders.  This group included Fruit Belt residents and McCarley Gardens Tenant Council leaders, major workforce-development officials and providers, human resources administrators and procurement managers from all BNMC institutions, and community leaders and representatives from local developers who have construction jobs on the BNMC.

The university and church very much appreciate the work of the panel and value the many ideas and insights shared by community members during this process.  The EOP concluded its work in April with the submittal of its findings in a report to UB and SJBC.

What is the result of the EOP’s work?

On April 19, 2013, the EOP presented to UB and SJBC a report titled “Opening Economic Opportunity Around UB’s Growing Downtown Presence.”

While acknowledging that UB already meets or exceeds state-mandated targets for minority and women employment and business participation on all of its downtown Buffalo construction projects, the EOP report identified six ways the university could do more to “make economic opportunities more accessible to those in our community who have had too few such opportunities.”

The panel’s recommendations build upon the success of projects and initiatives already underway at UB to increase community access to jobs and business opportunities created by UB’s expansion in downtown Buffalo.

The panel recommended that UB:

  • Illuminate paths to good permanent jobs at the university by strengthening connections between residents and systems of education, job training, recruitment and placement that already exist.
  • Help minority- and women-owned firms – especially those based in the immediate neighborhood – form, grow and develop their businesses by securing business opportunities with UB for a wide range of routinely purchased goods and services, and other ways.
  • Engage residents of McCarley Gardens and adjacent communities in planning for UB’s downtown expansion, especially to protect and enhance the values of their properties and neighborhood as UB continues to invest.
  • Expand two-way communication between the university and the community that will be timely, transparent, participatory and operating at multiple levels.
  • Assign responsibility and create accountability for ongoing implementation of these recommendations to (1) a member of UB’s senior leadership and (2) to the UB 2020 Opportunities Advisory Council (OAC) or another appropriate entity, with a charge to facilitate the role of UB and its medical campus partners in promoting economic development in the community.
  • Facilitate collaborations in the implementation of these recommendations with UB partner institutions Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, as well as Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.

Are the findings of the EOP valid, considering that no one from the Fruit Belt or McCarley Gardens were members of the EOP?

The EOP, UB and St. John Baptist Church feel very strongly that the findings are valid and offer real and achievable recommendations for improving economic opportunities for residents of the Fruit Belt and McCarley Gardens. 

The EOP was never intended to be a community group.  It was an internal group assigned by UB and St. John Baptist Church to meet with various stakeholders – including Fruit Belt and McCarley residents – in order to identify realistic pathways for economic opportunity.   The EOP’s report is a result of this work.

What specifically will UB do to implement the EOP’s recommendations?

The university will take immediate steps to implement the EOP recommendations.  Over the next weeks and months, the university will:

  • Create a “jobs portal” in UB’s Downtown Gateway building on Goodell Street, where community members can learn about and apply for UB jobs.  The university will work with BNMC partner institutions to expand this resource to include job opportunities at other BNMC institutions.
  • Partner with the BNMC to develop and provide career workshops, education and training opportunities for residents.  These programs will be tied to new and existing programs within UB’s Economic Opportunity Center, local agencies and area colleges to prepare residents for employment.
  • Hire a director of supplier diversity and hold supplier workshops describing and clarifying ways local minority- and women-owned companies can do business with the university.
  • Work with BNMC partners to promote the use of MWBE (minority- and women-owned business enterprise) vendors in new and existing buildings.
  • Open and staff a UB community relations office in UB’s Downtown Gateway building to serve as a “front door” to the university for residents.  The university will create a “co-laboratory” space within the building where community members can interact with the university and hold meetings and public forums.
  • Continue to engage residents through regular community forums to discuss UB’s plans for growth on the BNMC and reuse of McCarley Gardens, and offer specific sessions on job opportunities, parking and transportation, health impacts and other topics of interest to the community.
  • Offer additional leadership training programs to residents who wish to be active in shaping the future of their community and their interactions with UB and BNMC.
  • Publish a monthly community newsletter and increase its availability throughout the neighborhood.
  • Assign responsibility for implementing EOP recommendations to a senior staff person at the university.

Can the EOP’s recommendations, and UB’s response, actually improve economic opportunity?

Overcoming economic disparity is complex issue that requires a consistent community-wide response.  The EOP has done an excellent job in identifying real and achievable ways UB can improve access to economic opportunity to those in our community who have not often had those opportunities.

UB is committed to doing its part, and will work closely with BNMC partners and other community leaders to fully achieve the recommendations outlined in the EOP’s report.

What is next for the EOP?

With the submittal of its report, the work of the EOP is finished and the EOP will disband.  UB and SJBC very much appreciate the panel’s work on behalf of the university, church and community.

How will UB ensure that the EOP’s recommendations are implemented and are effective?

UB will assign responsibility for implementing EOP recommendations to a senior staff person at the university.

The UB 2020 Opportunities Advisory Council will serve as a primary economic development liaison between the university, the community and BNMC partners.  The council, established in 2010, will work with the university and community to ensure that the EOP’s recommendations are addressed, and will pursue additional ways UB and BNMC partner institutions can open up new economic opportunities to community residents. 

The UB 2020 Opportunities Advisory Council is made up of representatives from UB, local businesses and local agencies.  Its members include:  chairperson June W. Hoeflich, member, UB Council; Michael Badger, pastor, Bethesda World Harvest International Church; Ravinder Bansal, chairman and CEO, AirSep Corp.; Robert Bragg, vice president, decision support and campus development, Kaleida Health; Deanna Alterio Brennen, president and CEO, Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce; Matt Enstice, executive director, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; Thomas A. Fentner, senior vice president, human resources and administrative services, HealthNow New York Inc.; Vicki Garcia, vice president, human resources management, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Laura Hubbard, vice president for finance and administration, UB.

Also, Anthony Johnson, CEO, Empire Genomics; Mary Lou Klee, director of corporate employment and corporate human resources, Kaleida Health; Michael Pietkiewicz, assistant vice president of government and community relations, UB; Michael Sexton, general counsel and chief institute operations officer, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; Brian C. Springer, executive vice president, Roswell Park Cancer Institute; and Paul E. Tesluk, Donald S. Carmichael Professor of Organization and Human Resources, UB School of Management.

What progress has been made to date to improve opportunities for the community?

UB has already made progress in expanding opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. For example, $100 million in construction-related contracts have been awarded to minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) over the past four years, and the university has set aggressive goals for MWBE participation in projects on its Downtown, North and South campuses.  And the university has begun to streamline its vendor/procurement and job-application processes to make it more accessible to the community.

Recently, business owners, residents, parishioners and Fruit Belt property owners learned how to become more effective leaders in the community through the Active Conscious Communities Training (AC²T) program provided by UB, the BNMC, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaleida Health.  From this training emerged a Fruit Belt community advocacy group called the Orchard Community Initiative (OCI), which is committed to improving the quality of life in the Fruit Belt.  OCI was awarded a $7,500 grant to use toward initiatives that benefit the Fruit Belt. The group’s first effort involves hosting a signature event in the neighborhood to help bring together what can sometimes be a fragmented community. Additionally, some of the graduates also will receive scholarships to attend a Leadership Buffalo program in 2014.