As the days become longer and the regulations imposed on businesses are lifted, it is exciting to see what great potential lies ahead for the business community. A recent market study from CBRE confirmed what we have been seeing and hearing from our Chamber members throughout 2021: office and retail vacancies were moving in the right direction. We welcomed many new members during 2021 in the retail sector that saw an opportunity to start and grow their business. Also, we worked with many business owners in helping to develop their plan to safely bring their workers back to the office and strategized on the workforce of the future, hybrid scheduling, or a complete remote schedule for certain employees. While the initial reaction was a fully remote workforce for the future, it is not feasible or applicable in every industry. Many employers are still very much focused on creating culture, creativity, and inspiring professional growth. While office vacancies are down from their 2020 numbers of 13.5% to 12.8%, we must remain vigilant, ensuring this trend continues with close to one million more square feet coming online.
We hope that New York State does its part in this upcoming budget season to encourage job creation and not hinder business owners with additional regulations or fees. One area of particular interest for all businesses where rates have gone up is Unemployment Insurance. Unfortunately, the pandemic and many of the regulations that New York State imposed during that time led unemployment to record highs, thus depleting the state’s unemployment fund. As a result, employers today are being asked to pay the highest allowable rates to fund the outstanding loan balance of 9.3 billion dollars. That is why the Chamber signed onto a letter spearheaded by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) along with nearly 50 other chambers and business advocacy organizations asking New York State to use a portion of their unspent federal funds to replenish this deficit. New York State would not be alone in making such a contribution as 32 other states have already done this in providing relief to their businesses. We will always remain committed at the Chamber to ensure we are doing our part representing your business when it comes to burdensome regulations and fees.
Next month we will host our first ever professional development symposium in conjunction with Daemen College and sponsored by National Grid and our Emerging Business Leaders. This half-day event is encouraged for all Chamber members and non-members to attend if you are looking to think outside the box regarding:
- workplace culture
- increasing your brand within your organization and
- improving your workplace communications.
Daemen College has graciously afforded us the opportunity to learn from some of the most forward-thinking individuals in our area. The fee is nominal, and there will be a brief cocktail reception for networking afterward; I hope everyone can join us. You can register here.
This month one of our most popular Lunch Mobs of the year is taking place, Tuesday, March 15, at The Irishman in the Village of Williamsville to kick off Saint Patrick’s Day week here in Buffalo. The hospitality at The Irishman is always great, but they really bring their A-Game this time of year. I hope you will join us by registering here. That week there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy all that our region offers while we are showcased on the national stage with NCAA March Madness Basketball tournament rounds one and two here in Buffalo. Our region has always done an incredible job supporting this event, and I want to acknowledge the fantastic work that Patrick Kaler and the team at Visit Buffalo Niagara do, ensuring everyone who visits understands just what a treasure our community is. I encourage everyone to visit their favorite restaurant during the weekend or enjoy the parades in downtown Buffalo and the first ward taking place on Saturday and Sunday.
In closing, I want to thank everyone who joined us for our Virtual State of the Town Address and 2022 Board of Director Installation. We greatly appreciate the support of our members, investors, and the input provided by the board over the past year, and we are encouraged at the opportunity to gather next year for what is always a very popular event. If you missed our virtual event, you can view it here. If there is ever anything more you feel the Chamber should be doing, please do not hesitate to reach out and remember my door is always open.