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Message from A.J. Baynes: March 2023

A.J. Baynes Headshot
A.J. Baynes, President & CEO

The month of March is budget season in Albany for our New York State elected officials, and while it is vital throughout the year to let your voice be heard, now is the time as citizens to engage with your elected officials on the issues that matter most to you. The Chamber has been actively involved with our elected officials at every level of government, advocating on behalf of our business community. Early last month, we welcomed elected leaders at our annual meeting, where we rolled out our Public Policy & Economic Development Agenda. With over three hundred people in a standing-room-only crowd, we echoed a number of essential issues and valuable investments that the state should be focused on. On behalf of our business community, we advocated for updating the role the Amherst IDA who can play a key role in incentivizing growth in our town (especially when it comes to outdated large scale retail parcels), using the budget to make investments in our unemployment fund, alleviating the financial burden on our businesses, continuing to invest in the film industry, and making new investments in the growing digital gaming sector (which is on pace to be an over 325 billion dollar industry by 2026). However, the most critical issue facing our state is the current draft scoping plan proposed by the Climate Action Council.


Since enacted in 2019, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act has enacted the Climate Action Council (CAC) with the caveat of making New York a leader in reducing our current greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050. The Chamber has hosted many forums and meetings regarding this issue over the past three years; however, now, with the proposed timelines by the CAC being considered for adoption by the New York State Legislature, we have heard an overwhelming concern from our business community and the public on reliability, safety, and cost. In addition, the draft plan proposed in December of 2022 is even more aggressive and includes a ban on natural gas and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040 for all New Yorkers.

This accelerated timeline proposal by the CAC on an electrical grid infrastructure that will need substantial upgrades in order to handle the increased load poses a significant risk to our area. Nearly 90% of the homes in our community are heated by natural gas, and in the event the power goes out, Western New Yorkers still have the ability to heat their homes during a winter storm. A draft plan that does not address reliability and potential costs to consumers at a time when our economy is dealing with record inflation numbers and is extremely fragile should give everyone pause.

There is a world where both natural gas and electricity can exist in concert with each other to provide a cost-effective, reliable, and eco-friendly product for all New Yorkers. We encourage everyone to contact their state elected official to have their voice heard on these critical issues or contact us at, and we will assist in connecting you with the appropriate representative.

This month the Chamber is hosting our second annual Emerging Business Leader professional development symposium in conjunction with Daemen University and sponsored by National Grid on Friday, March 24, at 10am. The EBL Symposium is a half-day event open to all Chamber and non-Chamber members looking to sharpen their professional skills, modify their personal brand, and better understand their leadership style. There is an MBA discount for Amherst Chamber members as well! Last year nearly one hundred people participated in our Symposium, and we anticipate another incredible group. You can register here.

One of the most popular Lunch Mobs of the year is today at The Irishman! Kick-off Saint Patrick's Day a little early by joining us for this casual networking event. Next month, be sure to join us across the street at The Eagle House on Thursday, April 20, at noon. Also, on Tuesday, March 21, our Business After Hours event is hosted by Anthony Baldi & Associates at their offices, be sure to register here.

On Sunday, March 5, we officially launched our newest council at the Chamber, LIFT: Leadership & Inspiration for Trailblazers, a women's networking group that focuses on the core values of education, inspiration, courage, philanthropy, inclusion, diversity, equity, and the success of our WNY community. LIFT has hosted two events already, taking in the Buffalo Beauts hockey game and a Females & Finance event hosted by The Establishment. Their next events, Wine and Investing 101 & 201, taking place Wednesday, April 5 and May 3. Please join us as these professional women continue to grow their council and provide another incredible benefit for our Chamber members.

The Chamber will always continue to represent your needs and develop programming and content around the things that are important to you. However, we want to hear from you, and I hope you will help us by providing your feedback after events or interactions with the Chamber throughout the year. We promised you at our Annual Meeting in February we would measure our member satisfaction, so please be on the lookout for surveys and emails from our team as we solicit more of your input. As always, please remember my door is always open.


LIFT Buffalo Beauts Hockey Game 3/5/2023

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