After business visits, there’s work to fill jobs

Visits: Having reason to believe

Submitted photo Alexis Singleton of El Greco and County Executive George Borrello stand behind one of the cribs made by the company.

MAYVILLE — You could make the case that the first four months have been all business for Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello. Since taking office Jan. 1, he has visited 107 shops or companies in his first 100 days.

It was an aggressive agenda — and an eye-opener in terms of what the region’s businesses offer and produce. From the doors on distinctive buildings across the nation created at Ellison Bronze in Jamestown to wooden children’s furniture and cribs made at El Greco in that same south county city, there is a diverse group of items coming from our back yard.

You see, Borrello is not like the typical career politician. He comes from the private-sector side — or the group that shakes its head whenever it hears how slow and unresponsive government can be as problems occur.

One of the rallying cries from candidates across our state and region in recent decades is we need more jobs. Instead of making that same statement on the campaign trail last year, Borrello made a vow to meet with manufacturers, small businesses and major institutions to find out what county officials can do about keeping the industry that is here happy.

His visits included north-county companies such as Fieldbrook Foods in Dunkirk, Jamestown Plastics in Brocton, Bailey Manufacturing in Forestville and the Growers’ Cooperative in Westfield. What he found was somewhat surprising, considering the message of doom and gloom that is often prominent here.

“Most businesses in our county are doing well. … They would like to stay and grow,” Borrello said.

But this is where the challenge begins. “What’s truly holding them back is a the lack of a qualified work force.”

Ouch.

Everyone involved in the education of our youth had to take notice of that statement. Fortunately, Borrello’s State of the County message Wednesday evening was well attended.

About 250 came to the Chautauqua Lake High School auditorium to hear his address. A portion of that segment was from education, including Dunkirk Superintendent Dr. James Tracy and Chautauqua Lake Superintendent Ben Spitzer. Also in attendance were members of the county Industrial Development Agency as well as Todd Tranum of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. All play a role in helping the business climate.

One of the key pieces to developing the work force locally came from Tracy’s district, Tranum, the Jamestown Community College and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. P-Tech, which promotes developing students to be ready for employment, offers courses in welding, computer automated design and mechanical technology.

Currently, about 100 students are enrolled in the program at the former School 6 in Dunkirk.

Still that leaves, according to Borrello, some more than 600 jobs that need to be filled at the 107 businesses he visited. That is not an educational issue, it is one for the community.

Our region is no different than Buffalo. We have an inferiority complex. It comes from watching friends and former neighbors move to other regions after businesses in the past decided to close or relocate.

Borrello’s call to action also needs the assistance of current county residents. It includes a dose of self confidence. “We cannot expect others to believe in us if we don’t believe in ourselves,” the executive noted.

It was, for the most part, an inspiring speech that made many believe in the growing potential of our county. Within months, work could be bustling at the Athenex site off Route 5 in the town of Dunkirk and the National Comedy Center will have opened in Jamestown.

Both projects — from the start — had their doubters. Today, however, it’s nothing to laugh at. It is happening — and we must be ready to embrace the next steps.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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