Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Group Gathers to Tackle Critical Niagara County Issues [Niagara Gazette]

Sep 18, 2014 | Posted in News

The Niagara Gazette - September 18, 2014:

SANBORN — The hum of more than 100 people could be heard just outside a conference room at Niagara County Community College Thursday morning, during the Niagara County Solutions Forum: On-ramps to Success event.

Inside the room, huddled around several round tables, groups of local leaders, professionals and area residents were intensely engaged in a brainstorming session, discussing the answer to the question: What do you see as the most critical issue in Niagara County?

"I think we have to focus on early childhood education and getting kids ready for kindergarten. Because, if they're behind by the time they get to kindergarten, then they'll be spending a lifetime trying to catch up," said Tracy Diina who attended the event as a representative for the Consumer Credit Council of Niagara.

Another idea considered a critical issue in Niagara County is workforce readiness and adult literacy.

"If you are struggling with reading, you can't fill out a job application or go online to fill one out," said Susan Shaft the executive director of Literacy New York, Buffalo-Niagara Inc.

The forum was hosted by the Niagara Area Foundation. Its goal was to get like minded local leaders, residents and professionals together to try to identify a solution to some of the most critical issues in the county.

"We're here to use the all of the talent in this room to come up with some solutions," said Betsy Diachun, the Niagara Area Foundation chair. "And, then perhaps we can start to see some changes happen."

According to demographic data provided by the Niagara Foundation the poverty rate in Niagara County has increased about 25 percent since 2010. The poverty rate in Niagara Falls is at 22 percent, Lockport 20 percent and rural areas like Barker at 15 percent.

"It's very informative, we've gotten lots of data and information about the struggles in Niagara County," said Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey.

The critical issues in her corner of the county has many facets.

"We're concerned about transportation, getting people in poverty better access to food and getting them better jobs," McCaffrey said.

The event also featured a panel discussion that included local professionals who are working on projects and programs that serve as "Bright Spots" in the county.

One panelist was Jim Haid the executive director for the Isaiah 61 Project, a group that helps people obtain trade skills and re-enter the workforce.

"People say the trades are dead. The trades are not dead. There just aren't any people joining them anymore," Haid said. "We're putting people to work who are unemployed, with no skills, we're giving them skills and putting them back to work."

To view this story in the Niagara Gazette, click here.

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